By Sen. Sherrod Brown
At the 2012 Summer Olympic opening ceremony, Team USA took the stage wearing foreign-made red, white, and blue uniforms. At a time when so many good jobs had disappeared overseas, the news that our Olympic team was being forced to wear uniforms made overseas was an outrage. It made no sense that an American organization would place a Chinese-made beret on the heads of our best athletes when we have capacity to make high-end apparel right here at home. That’s why I passed a resolution calling on the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) to change this, and it promised it would do so.
Last week, at the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics, we saw the USOC live up to its pledge, as Team USA took the stage sporting American-made apparel.
But while it was great to see Olympic athletes wearing uniforms with a “USA-made” label, there’s more that we can do now to boost American manufacturing.
Ohio has a long and storied history of designing and manufacturing clothing and apparel and we must continue to help small businesses across our state grow and succeed. Our apparel companies – like American Made Bags in Akron and All American Clothing in Arcanum – can compete with anyone in the world, if given a level playing field. But, the U.S. government spends more than $1.5 billion on clothing made in factories overseas.
We need to be doing all that we can to invest in our own manufacturing base – and that begins with ensuring our government is doing its part.
My legislation, the Wear American Act, would change an existing law that requires 51 percent of federal government’s non-defense textile and apparel purchases be made on U.S.-made products.
We can do better than that.
Why shouldn’t apparel and textiles purchased by U.S. tax dollars be 100 percent American-made?
This isn’t rocket science. It just makes plain sense to put U.S. tax dollars back into the U.S. economy.
When we do have to buy goods that are made overseas, we need to make sure we aren’t doing business with contractors who violate labor rights and worker safety laws, especially as they apply to child labor.
That’s why I am urging the General Services Administration (GSA) to ensure that federal agencies not only disclose the locations of the factories they contract with, but that they are aware of and take their working conditions into account when making purchasing decisions.
We should be in the business of creating policies that reward hardworking Ohioans, who want to create jobs in Ohio – rather than supporting policies that help companies send U.S. jobs overseas or take part in questionable labor practices.
Right now, the stakes couldn’t be higher. We must do everything we can to support American workers.
Sherrod Brown is a United States Senator from Ohio.