Collins, King say military should buy U.S. athletic shoes

PORTLAND — U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King of Maine have written a letter signed by 13 other senators asking that the Department of Defense be required to buy only American-made athletic footwear for military personnel.

File photo

Sherry Piirainen works at one of the assembly stations at the New Balance shoe factory in Norway. New Balance employs 1,400 workers in the United States, nearly 900 of them in Maine.

The April 19 letter asks President Barack Obama to direct the department to follow a 1941 law requiring the military to buy American-made products for soldiers whenever possible.

As a rule, the Defense Department purchases shoes and clothing that are made in America, the senators said. The department used to treat athletic footwear the same way, but in recent years it's been giving military personnel a cash allowance to buy their own footwear.

Collins and King said the military's policy has placed jobs in jeopardy in states such as Maine and Massachusetts, where Boston-based New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc. has offices and plants. New Balance is the last major American athletic footwear manufacturer.

"We can increase American footwear manufacturing jobs at no cost to the federal government simply by your directing the Department of Defense to align its athletic footwear procurement policies to those it has already adopted for other footwear, such as combat boots, service shoes, and other uniform items," the letter said.

U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud of Maine has been calling for the military to buy U.S.-made athletic footwear for a couple of years.

To drive home his point, he gave the president a pair of custom-made New Balance sneakers with "President Obama" sewn on the heels during a visit to Maine last year.

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KATHY WILLIAMSON's picture

The American Way

Factories will never again thrive in this country as long as greed lives. Owners insist that they must keep obscene profits instead of paying the workers a fair share. Workers go along with it because they're fooled into believing that will be their life too someday, if they only keep working hard enough.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Kathy ? HST Weds .11 am - ish

Kathy ? HST Weds .11 am - ish •
Be wary & be careful
There have been no shoes or boots made in these US of A this century . Dexter ®  & Timberland ® are all made in China or Italy now
Just ask L.L. Bean ® ( Leon Leonwood )
Do not be fooled by the cynical and sarcastic Republican party
It is the party pf losers , boos and shoots and ' shoes and boots .'
http://www.nps.gov/lowe/index.htm hth ? Dr. Dosh

Noel Foss's picture

Like Jerry said, Redwings are still made in the US.

The Chippewas I'm wearing right now were made in the US.
New Balance has three plants here in Maine, and (I think) two more in Massachusetts.
And, actually, LL Bean still makes the Maine Hunting Shoe right here in Maine.

KATHY WILLIAMSON's picture

Are you sure?

They're sewn in Maine. Where is the rubber made, the leather cut? You have to be a detective to know the truth.

Bean handsewn mocs are imported. Handsewing is a skill and it's also painful. How much do you think an Indonesian child is getting paid to do it? Also Bean's boat shoes, all their sneakers, and most of the clothes. It wouldn't cost any more to make that stuff here, if factory owners would be willing to take a reasonable share and pay the workers for their talent and labor.

Noel Foss's picture

How far back do you want to go, here?

I'm absolutely certain that the Maine Hunting Shoe is still being made in the US. I'm equally certain that the boots on my feet were made in the US as well. I'm also pretty certain that New Balance is still making shoes here in Maine (I know a few people who work in the Skowhegan plant).
However, I can't vouch for where the raw materials come from. I mean, did the oil used to make the rubber come from US wells, or from the Middle East? Was the leather tanned in the US, from US-raised cattle, from US-born breeding stock? Were those cattle fed exclusively USA-grown grain and US-manufactured supplements? Was the thread used woven in the US? Were the sewing machines used US-made models, using US-manufactured needles cast from US-made steel, and sitting on US-made tables built from lumber grown and sawn in the US?
Odds are, if you drive a car or truck that was "made" in the US, it's built from parts that were imported from overseas. It's also highly likely that there's more in your house right now from outside of the country than from within it. I'm sure it's true of mine, as well, despite the fact that I make a concerted effort to buy US-made when and where I can.

My point is, the US is part of a global economy. It's definitely a shame that we've lost so much of our manufacturing base over the years; I complain about it all the time when I can't find an American-made product on the shelf at the store. We've sent a lot of money out of the country over the years because we've been buying their cheaper products. But global commerce goes both ways; if other countries were suddenly to stop buying the products that we produced, we'd certainly be hurting because of it.
Company owners are definitely responsible for moving their manufacturing overseas out of the desire to make a buck. But so are politicians, for providing the tax breaks and other financial incentives. So are the consumers, for "voting with their wallets" and buying the cheaper foreign product so many times. So are the labor unions, for collectively bargaining their members out of a job. And I guess we can blame human nature too, for wanting to earn as much and spend as little as possible...

KATHY WILLIAMSON's picture

On their website, it clearly

On their website, it clearly says "sewn in the U.S." So I think you are wrong about the Bean Boots. I'm not splitting hairs about where the oil came from, that's just a distraction. There's a lot more work in a boot than just sewing. Anyway I think the workers should be paid very well. Why should the owner live in a mansion while the guy doing the actual work has to live in a tenement? I'm just saying those owners and shareholders had better hope there isn't a Heaven and Hell.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Redwing MN

We still have a manufacturer here, MN, that still makes boots and work shoes...

KATHY WILLIAMSON's picture

And lest we forget, consumers

And lest we forget, consumers who demand the lowest price, no matter what the real cost. Aren't we as guilty of driving the mills out of town, by our willingness to buy this junk?

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Made in USA, Buy America

Lewiston and ME, had a history of many shoemakers in the mills. My mom and many others created those shoes and helped make Lewiston what it was, for the manufacturing city it was known for, and that business needs to come back home.

New Balance was one of my favorite shoes, besides the penny loafers and many others from Dexters'. I recall my old school buddy Andy Rancourt who's folks had their own company in Auburn and we bought shoes there also.

I recall my mom and aunt soaking and hand sewing many cases of penny loafers, right at home in the kitchen, where I would help when I could.

There was pride in the products made in USA and everyone should make an attempt to do so. Just like the shoes and boots made in Redwing, MN for Redwing Boots and shoes made in USA.

I recall in 2000 buying Trask shoes out of Chicago that made Buffalo hide shoes that were always very comfortable too.

Noel Foss's picture

There's many things that the military (and the public)

Would be better served by buying American.
But cost is king. The Virginia Class submarines only (only, ha!) cost $1.8 Billion apiece because they used off the shelf products (most of which were made overseas). People squawk about military spending already; imagine the increase if everything was made in the US?
It's a shame, but it's part of the "benefits" of the global economy.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

One out of many

There are products that are made oversea and once shipped, retailed and sold for what it would be in cost here today. It was Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Etc to now China and the products are the same at wholesale as if they were made here on some products. I know I try my damnest to buy American all the time, regardless of cost, Union Made, are my shirts, pants, shoes and tools.

Noel Foss's picture

I buy American made on some things

But I'll admit that I can't always afford to do it. And sometimes buying from overseas is a better option; my Tacoma has twice the miles and has had half the problems that my Ranger did, and I paid about the same for both of them.

Admittedly, part of the nostalgia for "American Made" may stem from an overall decline in the quality of the basic materials used. For instance, steel used to be made from high-grade iron ore; now it's made from Taconite, a lower quality source. So even though manufacturing techniques have improved, they're often being done with a poorer product.

Part of it undoubtedly also stems from the disposable attitude taken by modern society. People buy a lousier product because it's cheaper upfront, and replace it when it breaks rather than repairing it. I've got an antique Craftsman table saw with bearings that can be taken apart and regreased. I do it every couple of years, and the saw still works like new. By comparison, my much more modern Craftsman miter saw has sealed bearings. They're replaceable when they fail, but I've only owned the saw for about 8 years and I've already replaced the bearings once. And the rep that I spoke to when I ordered the bearings was shocked that I wasn't just replacing the saw.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Definitely nothing is the same as it was

It is true that they don't build them like they use too. I too have a very old Craftsman contractor table that has the motor mounted outside and is the best table I have ever owned, made in USA. I also have DeWalt radial arm and Craftsman miters made in US and they are the best and repairable. My craftsman machine tools are my old mans back from 1960 and they are the best built and replaceable for life and you can't beat that.

All of my vehicles have been made in US and are Chevys, Fords, Buicks and Dodges, new. Miss my 86 Camino. But like you said not all parts are US made. My Tahoe and Trail Blazer are from 2003 and still in mint condition and had to repaint the Tahoe after being at a political event at the Capitol, with my Union stickers visible, Recall Walker, some hayseed keyed both sides causing $2200.00 damage. Payback will be a bitch...

I learned many years ago that I spent more the first time so that it was a better quality built and dependable for a longer time, which has been fruitful for me. One other is all of my appliances are all Sears, high quality, bought with maintenance agreements that have paid off 10 fold.

Noel Foss's picture

oofh. Bummer about the paint job.

It's definitely worth the extra to buy appliances at Sears; they're actually made with different components than the exact same models that they sell at Home Depot or Lowes (I used to work at Sears, first in the Automotive department and then selling appliances on off days). Stuff like metal gearboxes in washers vs the plastic ones in the cheaper versions does make a difference. I used to help the guy in the warranty department service warranty work that came in, and there were often two part #'s for the same part; one was metal (for the Sears products) and one was plastic (for the rest). We'd catch flak every now and then from an "informed" consumer who'd called us for a part price, and then called Home Depot or Lowes for a part price and been quoted less from the other guys. Once we'd explained the difference, some folks'd be pissed off at us (for our higher price), some folks would be pissed off at the other guys (for the crappier product).

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