After Olympic Controversy, Senator Announces "Wear American Act of 2012" to Boost U.S. Apparel Industry
Following the news that the Olympic opening ceremony uniforms that will be worn by American athletes are entirely made in China—spurring bipartisan outrage and resulting in new commitments by the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) to make 2014 uniforms in America—U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown announced a new effort to boost domestic apparel and textile manufacturing. Brown is introducing a "Buy America" plan to ensure that the federal government purchases apparel that is 100 percent American-made. Current Buy America statutes require that only 51 percent of these products purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars be "made in America."
"Manufacturing helped make this country great," Brown said. "Good-paying manufacturing jobs have allowed hundreds of thousands of Americans to buy homes, send their children to college, and retire with security. But for too long, we've seen American manufacturing jobs—including textile and apparel jobs—shipped overseas due to unfair trade that has stacked the deck against American workers."
"We know how to make things in America, and the textile sector employs more than half a million workers in the United States—which is why the federal government should be purchasing, whenever possible, apparel that is domestically produced. With our widening trade deficit, we should be doing everything we can to support American manufacturing and job creation," he continued.
Brown's bill, the Wear American Act of 2012, would revise an existing law requiring that 51 percent of federal agency purchases of textiles and apparel be made on products made in the United States, and require that textile and apparel articles acquired for use by federal agencies be manufactured from articles, materials, or supplies entirely grown, produced, or manufactured in the United States. It would provide flexibility to federal agencies in the event that such textiles and apparel are either not sufficient or unavailable for production in the United States.
Following the report on the Olympic uniforms, Brown called on the U.S. Olympic Committee to utilize American clothing manufacturers for this year's uniforms and use domestic clothing makers for future Olympics, including the 2014 Winter Games. The 2012 uniforms cost $1,945 for men, and $1,473 for women, and include items such as a $495 shirt and a $498 skirt. Today, following a meeting with USOC Chairman Scott Blackmun and Chairman of the Board Larry Probst, Brown led a group of senators on a letter to the USOC asking it to meet with American manufacturers for future USOC uniform demands, and offering to connect the USOC with these manufacturers.
Brown is not the first to react to the U.S. Olympic Committee's uniform decision. Once it came out that the Ralph Lauren-designed uniforms were manufactured in China, American Apparel's CEO Dov Charney told The New York Post that his company was in talks to design and create made-in-the-USA uniforms from the Russian Olympic team, adding that his company was never approached by Team USA's committee. A representative from American Apparel elaborated, telling apparel site Fashionista that
The American Apparel factory makes more than 50 million garments a year and that isn't all for our stores. A huge part of the company's business is wholesale and private label—we can basically make anything for anyone. Our prices are completely competitive, especially when you factor in the quality control and speed to market. American Apparel could start working on uniforms today and have them in London within 7 days. That's what vertical integration is about.
The representative added that American Apparel offered the use of its facilities to Ralph Lauren to quickly turn around American-made uniforms in time for the London Olympics. The company did not specify if Ralph Lauren responded to the offer.
Brown is the author of the Currency Exchange and Oversight Reform Act, legislation that represents the biggest bipartisan jobs bill—at no cost to U.S. taxpayers—passed by the Senate last year. The legislation would allow the U.S. government to stand up for American jobs when China cheats by manipulating its currency to give its exports an unfair advantage. Brown is also the sponsor of the All-American Flag Act, which would require the federal government to purchase 100 percent made-in-America flags. Supplier Annin and Company, the nation's oldest and largest flagmaker, currently employs more than 500 workers nationwide. The company's manufacturing and distribution facility is located in Coshocton, Ohio. The federal government is currently required to purchase flags made from 50 percent American-made materials; Brown's bill would require the government to buy flags that are entirely produced with American-made materials.
Related story: U.S. Olympic Uniforms Made in China, Lawmakers React