Maine Footwear Jobs
Mike has been leading the fight in Congress to preserve current footwear tariffs that are threatened by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a multination free trade agreement that is currently being negotiated. He has also introduced a bill to force the Department of Defense to comply with current law, which requires our servicemembers to be outfitted head-to-toe in American-made products.
Full Compliance with the Berry Amendment
For over four years, Mike has been fighting to make sure our soldiers are clothed from head to toe in American-made uniforms, including their physical training footwear. According to federal procurement law, better known as the “Berry Amendment,” American servicemembers must have American-made uniforms, including footwear. In recent years, however, the Department of Defense (DOD) has violated this policy by issuing cash allowances to soldiers for their own purchase of physical training shoes. By using this allowance instead of providing the shoes directly to the soldiers, DOD gets around the American-made requirements.
Over the past few years, Mike has pushed to have this issue addressed by the highest levels of government, including President Obama and multiple Secretaries of Defense. He has also arranged to have top U.S. trade officials visit Maine manufacturing facilities in order to drive home the economic importance of Maine footwear jobs.
Over four years ago, Mike began raising this issue in letters to DOD demanding that it fully comply with the Berry Amendment. Below are examples of where he’s weighed in on the issue to press Maine’s case:
- April 28th, 2010: In response to DOD’s unsatisfactory response to his inquiries, Mike worked with Reps. Larry Kissell (D-NC) and Howard Cble (R-NC), a House Armed Service Committee Member, to insert an amendment into the House-passed Fiscal Year 2011 National Defense Authorization bill that required GAO to study the DOD’s use of the cash allowance.
- September 16, 2011: Mike continued to press DOD and introduced the American Shoes for American Servicemembers Act to address this problem. This bill simply clarified what was already in current law: that the Berry Amendment covers footwear. This commonsense legislation makes congressional intent explicit and ensures that all components of our troops’ uniforms, including their physical training uniforms, are made in the U.S.A. Mike also appealed to President Obama in a letter urging him to force DOD to fully comply with the spirit and the intent of the Berry Amendment.
- September 30th, 2011: To continue to raise awareness of this issue at the highest levels, Mike made sure Michelle Obama received a pair of New Balance sneakers when she visited Maine.
- March 30th, 2012: Mike also hand-delivered Maine-made, personalized sneakers to President Obama in March of 2012 and in their face-to-face conversation implored him to force DOD to comply with the Berry Amendment.
- In numerous meetings with Administration officials, Mike has raised this issue, making the same points that he made to the President—complying with the Berry Amendment is the right thing to do. Our soldiers deserve to wear uniforms that are 100% American-made.
- October 23, 2012: Mike teamed up with Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and more than 50 of their bipartisan colleagues, to send a letter to DOD urging full compliance with the Berry Amendment. In following up, Mike continued to press this issue again with the President and with his highest-level staffers as well as with the United States Trade Representative and various officials at the Department of Defense.
- June 14th, 2013: Mike successfully passed an amendment with Rep. Tsongas to the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization bill that would force DOD to directly supply new military recruits with Berry-compliant athletic footwear instead of providing a cash allowance. The amendment made an exception for any recruit that is medically determined to need different footwear than the Berry-compliant options. After the successful inclusion of the amendment in the House bill, the Senate failed to include a similar provision. As a result, the final defense bill contained weak language that does not require DOD to comply with the law.
At the end of the day, Mike is confident that this does not require a legislative fix and will continue to urge the White House to act until all troops wear the American-made shoes they deserve.
Ensuring New Trade Agreement Doesn’t Force Shoe Factories to Close their Doors
Mike has led the charge in urging U.S. trade negotiators to ensure the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement does not force U.S. footwear factories to close. Vietnam is one of 9 TPP countries participating in trade negotiations. Even with current U.S. tariffs on footwear, Vietnam has grown to be the second largest footwear exporter to the U.S. (behind only China). Vietnam’s footwear sector is characterized by low labor standards and is comprised of numerous state-owned enterprises that enjoy strong support from the Vietnamese government.
More than 28,000 American footwear jobs have been sent overseas in the last 15 years, largely due to unfair trade practices and low labor standards in China and Vietnam. Preserving U.S. footwear duties will help to level the playing field for the last remaining U.S. footwear companies who make shoes here at home. These tariffs are all that’s preventing the approximately 900 Maine footwear jobs from being sent overseas.
Mike has sent multiple letters, participated in numerous meetings with the administration, and he’s even given President Obama and the First Lady pairs of Maine-made New Balance sneakers to drive home his point. In July, he arranged a meeting between New Balance workers and USTR Ron Kirk and invited the Ambassador to visit a New Balance factory to see firsthand the importance of the footwear sector to Maine. He knows the TPP agreement could undermine New Balance’s American production, and he’ll keep fighting to make sure the agreement doesn’t force New Balance to close their footwear factories in Maine.
- In September of 2011 and May of 2012, Mike wrote letters to Kirk urging him to ensure that the new trade agreement doesn’t undermine the American footwear industry.
- In July of 2012, he joined with New Balance associates in Washington, DC to urge the administration to fight to preserve footwear tariffs. He also arranged a meeting between New Balance associates and USTR Ron Kirk.
- USTR Ron Kirk accepted Mike’s invitation to visit Maine in July of 2012, and he joined him at the Norridgewock New Balance factory on September 13th, 2012.
- To press his case on this issue and the TPP tariffs, Mike presented Maine-made New Balance sneakers to the President and First Lady during visits they’ve made to Maine.
- Most recently, on June 29, 2013, Mike and Senator King joined USTR Michael Froman for a tour of New Balance's Norridgewock facility.