Lawmakers Introducing Measure Requiring US Olympic Uniforms to be Made in USA

Posted July 13th, 2012 at 9:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Six Democratic U.S. senators say they will introduce legislation next week requiring the ceremonial uniforms worn by American Olympic athletes to be made in the United States.

Senators Robert Menendez, Frank Lautenberg, Robert Casey, Charles Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and Sherrod Brown issued a statement Friday on the subject. The move follows media reports that highlighted the “Made in China” labels on the red, white and blue patriotic blazers, shirts and trousers that will be worn by the U.S. athletes at the games later this month in London.

The bill being introduced is the “Team USA Made in America Act of 2012.”

Senator Menendez said that when U.S. Olympic athletes proudly represent the nation abroad, they should be showcasing the best of American-made products. He urged the United States Olympic Committee to “do the right thing for this summer's team.” He also called on his colleagues to help pass the bill to ensure that “we don't find ourselves in this appalling, embarrassing situation before the opening of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.”

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said the outsourcing decision was “absolutely wrong” at a time when U.S. textile industry workers are “desperate for jobs.”

“The Olympic Committee should be ashamed of themselves. I think they should be embarrassed. I think they should take all of the uniforms and put them in a big pile and burn them.”

The Olympic Committee has defended its decision and its partnership with Ralph Lauren, the U.S. clothing company that designed the outfits. In a Thursday statement, committee spokesman Patrick Sandusky said unlike most Olympic teams, the U.S. team is privately funded. He said the committee is “grateful for the support” of its sponsors.

In response to the criticism, the fashion firm now says U.S. outfits for the 2014 games will be made in the U.S.

Georgetown University business professor Pietra Rivoli studies the apparel industry and tells VOA the outsourcing of labor is part of a broader trend.

“The fact is that right now, close to 97 percent of the apparel that's purchased in the United States was sewn abroad.”

Rivoli, the author of “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy,” says the U.S. industry practice of moving garment-sewing abroad took a “steep curve” in the late 1980s. She says lower labor costs overseas fueled the trend.