UNITE, which represents 250,000 apparel, textile, laundry, and distribution workers in the United States and Canada, has formally announced that it has joined the coalition.
George Shuster, chief executive officer of Cranston Print Works, said at the New York City event that the United States ran a $61 billion trade deficit in textile and apparel goods in 2002.
”If the federal government refuses to change the flawed trade policies that generated those numbers, the U.S. textile and apparel industry is in grave danger."
Farmers too, are being hurt by the destruction of the U.S. manufacturing industry,” said Gaylon Booker, immediate past president of the National Cotton Council. "Domestic mill consumption of cotton is down by approximately 40 percent. When U.S. manufacturers like Pillowtex are forced into bankruptcy, U.S. cotton farmers are losing their best customers."
Pillowtex recently announced the closing of its U.S. operations, with a loss of 6,450 salaried and hourly jobs at 16 plants around the country.
Textile/apparel industry job losses and the burgeoning trade deficit are among reasons the companies have pledged to hold voter registration drives to make sure that 100 percent of their workers who are eligible voters are registered to vote," said Gail Strickler, chief executive officer, Saxon Textile Corp.
U.S. trade negotiators “have turned a blind eye to China’s tactics — illegal transshipments, illegal currency manipulation and illegal government subsidies, all of which the importers claim to be ‘fair trade’, declared Bill Horowitz, chief executive officer of the Amerbelle Corporation.
“At a time when our nation is at war, even our ability to clothe and supply our armed forces has been significantly diminished as hundreds of U.S. companies have been forced to close. The American people are starting to awaken to the disastrous consequences of our current trade policies, and they are demanding action from our elected officials. Rhetoric will not do – we need results."
John Emrich, chief executive officer of Guilford Mills pointed out that there is a mechanism, the special China textile safeguard, that can slow the job-destroying Chinese imports. “We intend to generate as many individualized e-mails and letters as we can from textile and apparel industry employees to the Congress and the President in support of the China safeguard petitions filed on July 24," he said.
During the past five years, Safer Textile Processing has closed and consolidated five plants, said Albert Safer, chief executive officer.
“While we still employ around 600 people in New Jersey and 120 in Tennessee, all these remaining jobs are at risk because of Chinese imports. It is simply not fair to ask us to compete with 40 cents per hour labor, currency manipulation, transshipment, and other illegal trade practices. We will lobby our federal, state and local officials to support our campaign to save what is left of the U.S. textile and apparel industry."
William E. Giblin, president of Tweave Inc. and chairman of the National Textile Association, noted that “nearly every segment of the U.S. textile, fiber, and apparel manufacturing sector has come together in a united fashion to lobby in support of the China textile safeguard petitions filed July 24. We’re all rolling up our sleeves and pulling on the same rope in this grassroots advocacy campaign," he said.
UNITE members “look forward to working hand-in-hand with textile and apparel industry management to change U.S. trade policy for the better," said Bruce Raynor, president. "It is unacceptable for countries like China, that don't respect basic human rights or environmental standards, to flood our market, destroy entire industries, and put hundreds of thousands of men and women out of work."
The closure of Pillowtex on July 31 is “a good illustration of what's wrong with current trade policy,” he said. “6,450 hardworking Americans lost their jobs in an instant. The average employee was 46.1 years old. Many are losing their homes, and few replacement jobs are in sight.
“These Pillowtex employees now join over 810,000 U.S. textile and apparel workers who have lost their jobs since December, 1994 – over half of the textile and apparel workers in this country have seen their jobs disappear in less than nine years. Free trade isn’t helping America; it is destroying it. Free trade is outsourcing many of our best jobs to sweatshops overseas and bleeding the country to death," Raynor said.
The textile/fiber coalition petitioned the U.S. government July 24 to invoke the special China textile safeguard and slow the surge of Chinese imports on knit fabric, dressing gowns, and brassieres. The U.S. trade deficit with China in textile and apparel products has jumped 45.4 percent in the first five months of 2003.
Coalition officials note that China uses currency practices that are illegal under world trade rules to give its products an estimated 40 percent advantage over U.S.-produced textile and apparel goods. The U.S. government, they say, has thus far refused to take action against China regarding these practices.
China also heavily subsidizes its textile sector, the largest in the world. Over one-third of China's textile output last year came from money-losing operations.
Approximately 750,000 Americans remain in the textile/apparel manufacturing sector.
Members of the textile/fiber coalition are American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC); American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI); National Textile Association (NTA); UNITE; American Yarn Spinners Association (AYSA); American Fiber Manufacturers Association (AFMA); National Cotton Council (NCC); American Sheep Industry Association (ASI); American Textile Machinery Association (ATMA); The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI); The Association of Georgia’s Textile, Carpet & Consumer Products Manufacturers (GTMA); USA Domestic Manufacturers Committee of the Hosiery Association; Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI); North Carolina Manufacturers Association (NCMA); Textile Distributors Association; South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance (SCMA);American Flock Association.