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Textile, allied organizations write Biden urging action to avert looming crisis

Posted December 16, 2021

 

Today, 19 other organizations representing the textile, apparel & footwear, defense and labor sent a letter to President Biden urging him to take swift action to avert a crisis that the clothing and textile defense industrial base is facing.

 

Calling the threat “immediate, dire, and existential,” the groups asked for “immediate help to make sure the Department of Defense has the authority and the funding so that Berry-compliant Clothing & Textile (C&T) contracts in distress can be adjusted to give U.S. companies and their workers the wherewithal to survive.”

 

The text of the letter is below.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

 

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden

President of the United States

The White House

Washington, DC 20500

 

SUBJECT: Clothing & Textiles Manufacturing Defense Industrial Base

 

Dear Mr. President:

 

The undersigned organizations, representing U.S. manufacturers and workers, request your urgent assistance to avert an immediate, dire, and existential threat to the U.S. Clothing & Textile (C&T) Manufacturing Defense Industrial Base that is essential to U.S. military preparedness.

 

The C&T base enables military readiness, making sure the American warfighters have access to the latest mission critical textiles, apparel, and equipage to protect our nation. On foreign battlefields, at domestic bases, and in communities across our great country, the men and women who wear our uniform do so proudly, partly because of the symbol of enduring democracy it represents and partly because 100% of these items are manufactured in the United States under the Berry Amendment. On average, the Department of Defense (DOD) procures nearly $2 billion worth of military textiles, helmets, armor, footwear and clothing annually, through the purchase of over 8,000 different textile-related items. Beyond supporting our nation’s readiness, these procurements also keep dozens of U.S. factories, employing tens of thousands of U.S. workers in the textile, apparel, and footwear industries, in business.

 

For 80 years, Congress has recognized that an effective national defense requires robust domestic capacity for textiles and clothing. The Berry Amendment ensures that these vital industries are called out for different and enhanced procurement procedures relative to other government procurement.  Although the Berry Amendment protects the C&T base from offshore competition, it cannot insulate the base from contracting practices, unpredictable Department of Defense (DoD) demand, and pandemic-driven increases in material and labor costs that have made it unsustainable to produce clothing, ballistic protection, and equipage for the U.S. military.

 

Many companies are now operating on Firm Fixed Price contracts that were awarded before the current COVID economic and health crises were realized. Fixed price contracts make it impossible for companies to react to changing business conditions – such as those that have whipsawed our industry over the past two years. Labor, health care, freight, energy, and materials costs have all increased by double digits – suddenly and unexpectedly – over the past

18 months and show no sign of abatement. Many manufacturers are unable to offer competitive wages, further exacerbating acute labor shortages. These higher costs without any economic price adjustment mechanisms mean companies are often forced to perform on contracts at a financial loss (simply to retain business and keep the workers employed in the hopes that a future contract will make up for current losses). Even if they can eke out a slim profit, these companies rarely have enough to reinvest in their business for training or equipment. Many companies with long track records of supporting the warfighter have already left the industrial base.

 

Now, in this time of extraordinary and unprecedented threat, we need your immediate help to make sure the Department of Defense has the authority and the funding so that Berry-compliant C&T contracts in distress can be adjusted to give U.S. companies and their workers the wherewithal to survive. 

 

Without urgent action, many of these companies will be forced to exit the business or close outright, leading to factory closures, layoffs, and drastic economic dislocation in the communities they support. Not only would such a calamity harm military preparedness, but it would undermine our ability to stand up domestic PPE capabilities as many of these companies are also engaged in the production of life saving masks and gowns and the materials from which they are domestically produced.

 

Simply put, we cannot build back better, or even survive, without swift, targeted direction from you to DoD and DLA.

 

Thank you for your attention to this urgent request.

 

AFL-CIO

American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA)

American Sheep Industry

Georgia Association of Manufacturers

Hand Tools Institute

INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry

Narrow Fabrics Institute

National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO)

North American Association of Uniform Manufacturers and Distributors (NAUMD)

Parachute Industry Association (PIA)

SEAMS

Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

Sewn Products Equipment & Suppliers of the Americas (SPESA)

South Carolina Textile Council

U.S. Industrial Fabrics Institute

United States Footwear Manufacturers Association (USFMA)

United Steel Workers

Warrior Protection and Readiness Coalition (WPRC)

Workers United

 

Sources: The aforementioned organizations

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