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Brown bill to aid American textile makers, boost USA wear supply chain

Sherrod Brown, Ohio's senior U.S. Senator, told reporters today on a conference call that he wears suites made at Cleveland’s Hugo Boss facility, the German-based company’s only American-based plant.

American Made Bags, headquartered in Akron, Ohio.
American Made Bags, headquartered in Akron, Ohio.AMB
Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown will sponsor a bill that will ensure American tax dollars are used to purchase apparel made in the USA, not with child labor in foreign countries.
Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown will sponsor a bill that will ensure American tax dollars are used to purchase apparel made in the USA, not with child labor in foreign countries.Senate

Sen. Brown, a Democrat who won reelection in 2012 in what many political watchers said was one of the nation's most expensive and fiercely fought races, is the only sponsor so far of the "Wear American Act," a bill that would ensure American tax dollars are used to purchase apparel made in the USA, not with child labor in foreign countries.

In advance of opening ceremonies Friday to the Winter Olympics held in Sochi in Russia, Ohio's curly haired, gravely voiced senator is urging the U.S. government to “Buy American” and stop purchasing products from foreign contractors who use child labor and violate worker safety laws. Current law only requires federal agencies to purchase textile products that are 51 percent American made, but Sen. Brown said his bill will change that, requiring all textile products purchased by federal agencies to be made in the United States.

"It’s not in the interest of American jobs, American taxpayers, or global human rights when our government procures goods from factories with records of blatant international labor violations," Brown said in prepared remarks. "But the limited enforcement actions our government has at its disposal are undermined by a simple lack of disclosure. American taxpayers deserve to know the addresses of factories receiving contracts before they are awarded."

Brown's bill, which currently has no other Senate sponsors and has an uncertain future with House Republican leadership, would amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation to require Federal agencies to procure textiles and apparel articles, including the components for such articles that are "manufactured in the United States entirely from articles, materials, or supplies mined, produced, or manufactured in the United States. This requirement would create domestic jobs and potentially benefit local businesses."

Sen. Brown was joined on the call today by Tommy Armour, the President of American Made Bags [AMB], a bag and t-shirt manufacturer from Akron. American Made Bags, which this year opened a facility in Las Vegas, NV, manufactures all of its products using U.S. materials unless requested materials cannot be found here. Armour's products became the official bag supplier of the 2010 Summer Olympics and he's the current bag supplier to the U.S. Army among other clients that include FDIC, White House and National Guard. AMB also supplies bags for First Lady Michelle Obama.

"The Wear America Act is very important to our U.S. economy in helping to facilitate more jobs within our borders," Armor said, adding, "It would also help to awaken government agencies of the factories that exist in the USA currently."

Due in large part to Senator Brown's efforts, a surge in orders with state and federal governments has occurred over the last 2 years. Lawson Nickol, the Founder of the All-American Clothing Company in Darke County in western Ohio, said she likes Brown's bill because stronger requirements to buy American made products mean more American jobs.

According to Brown's office, the federal government spends more than $1.5 billion a year on foreign-made products, a portion of which are made using child labor in substandard to intolerable working conditions. Just last month Brown urged the General Services Administration (GSA), which makes purchases for the federal government, to set a global example and ensure that American federal agencies are aware of and take working conditions into account when making purchases oversees. Sen. Brown requested that the GSA detail its efforts to monitor these conditions, track the factory locations of its contractors and subcontractors, and lawfully disclose this information to Congress.

Brown fought successfully to ensure that the uniforms Team USA wears during Friday's Opening Ceremonies were entirely American made. Last month, Brown applauded the Ralph Lauren Corp. for designing the 2014 U.S. Winter Olympic uniforms using only domestic manufacturers and craftsmen. Then, after a July 2012 report that Team USA’s summer uniforms were made in China, Brown led Senate efforts to urge the U.S. Olympic Committee to utilize domestic clothing makers for future Olympics, including this year’s games in Russia. The uniforms recently unveiled are the culmination of this and other like minded efforts.

The Buy America Act, which Brown also supports, requires the U.S. government to use American-made products. The Act further allows for preferential treatment to domestically produced materials used for mass-transit-related projects which are funded through the federal government. Brown successfully amended the highway bill and water infrastructure bill last year to strengthen "Buy America" provisions by closing existing loopholes.

Sen. Brown said it was an embarrassment that China manufactured clothes for American Olympians in the Summer Games in Beijing.

Armour said AMB, now in business for 15 years, currently employs 35 workers in Akron and six in Las Vegas. The pay range, he said, is $10-19 per hour.

"If we can make products here and sell them here, the economy will grow stronger and stronger," he told reporters. AMB supplied the 2010 Olympic bags. While Armour said fabrics his company uses do come from other countries, most suppliers come from Rhode Island and North Carolina.

Brown's office told CGE today that two years ago, Boss' Cleveland facility "teetered on the brink of closure." Hugo Boss and Workers United subsequently agreed to a new contract that resulted in a renewed life for the facility. In July 2010, Sen. Brown, whose Buckeye political career included time in the Ohio House and two terms as Secretary of State, joined Hugo Boss workers to celebrate the ‘first suit off the line’ at the company’s Brooklyn, Ohio plant.

Since 2010, the Cleveland facility has reported efficiency and quality ratings that are unparalleled in the industry. Brown worked closely with Workers United and Hugo Boss to keep the plant open, and in March 2012, Brown announced that the company and its employees had ratified a new, three-year labor contract that will preserve the company’s more than 150 manufacturing jobs in the Cleveland area. The agreement also provides for a new "Made to Order" clothing production for North America this fall. If successful, this new production work could bring additional jobs to the Brooklyn facility.

Brown's office was unable to immediately say how many textile manufacturers there are in Ohio or the number of workers they employ.

In separate news Thursday, Sen. Brown met with Ohio Adjutant General Major General Deborah Ashenhurst to discuss upcoming priorities and long-term strategic planning for Ohio’s National Guard. At the meeting, Brown expressed his support for continued air missions at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base.

Sen. Brown is the only Ohio Senator to serve a full term on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and is Co-Chair of the Senate Air Force Caucus.

The news article Brown bill to aid American textile makers, boost USA wear supply chain this year appeared first on Columbus Government Examiner.

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