Wait ’till we get our Hanes on you

by Jim Longworth

Last September when Hanesbrands spun off from Sara Lee Corp. and went independent, CEO Richard Noll told the Winston-Salem Journal, “…we will always be a major employer in Forsyth County”. Less than a year later Noll is dodging the Journal. That’s because he just announced the closing of Hanesbrands’ historic Stratford Road plant, throwing an additional 610 people out of work. Their jobs will now go to Central America. Last time I checked, the Caribbean is not part of Forsyth County, so Noll either lied last year, or he just didn’t understand how to manage payroll.    

This kind of contrived plant closing is not a new phenomenon. Ross Perot warned us back in 1992 that NAFTA would suck jobs out of America, and he was proven right. Now, CAFTA  has had an even greater negative impact on our workforce. That’s why, back in 2005, a few courageous congresspersons like Maine’s Michael Michaud and our own Virginia Foxx voted against CAFTA. They knew CAFTA was nothing but a shell game designed to benefit greedy corporations who wanted to exploit cheap labor in other countries, then ship their products back home, duty free. CAFTA was never about protecting American exports and American workers. It was about protecting corporate profits by exporting American jobs.

The result for North Carolina has been devastating. According to the NC Employment Security Commission, the apparel industry has declined by more than 50 percent over the past 10 years, and employment in that industry is down 70 percent during the same period. Ten years ago we had over 800 apparel plants in our state. Today, there are less than 400.

The Stratford Road site is the fifth facility Hanesbrands has closed in less than a year, causing more than 3,000 people to lose their jobs. And that brings us back to Richard Noll’s promise last fall. If he was incompetent we could simply forgive his premature, optimistic bravado. But by all accounts, Noll is a skilled executive. Therefore, it seems that he has deceived his workers and the community. Unfortunately, deception of that caliber is not a crime. Otherwise, the jails would be full of CEOs who orchestrated the exodus of an entire industry. In fact, if you want a lesson in how widespread the problem is, then visit a local department store and take an inventory of how many garments are made in the USA.

The other day I accompanied my wife to Kohl’s, and while she shopped I searched through every rack in the entire women’s section. I recognized lots of brand-name manufacturers. But the labels read like a roll call vote at the UN: China, Puerto Rico, Indonesia and so forth. I searched for nearly 40 minutes and couldn’t find a single garment that was made in America.

I am a relatively informed broadcaster and columnist. I knew that CAFTA had wreaked havoc on the apparel industry, but I had no idea that entire stores were devoid of American-made products. It was unsettling. It was as if America and American brands had been bought and sold, not by local consumers, but by foreign rebels. Lee jeans made in Asia? I felt betrayed. 

What could I do about this travesty? What can any of us do? The answer is simple. Boycott.

I know it sounds like a radical solution, but these are desperate times. Thousands of families have been ruined by the broken promises of greedy manufacturers, and we must all take a hand. That’s why I urge everyone to join me in checking labels before you buy. If the garment is not made in America, don’t purchase it. As naïve as this sounds, if we all pull together and mount even a regional boycott of foreign-made clothing, we will put a serious hurt on the greedy companies who have abandoned their commitments and communities.

Anyone who profits from laying off American workers is a terrorist and, in my mind, a traitor as well. Clearly, we are in a war with these corporate terrorists, and it’s time to start fighting back. Join me in the boycott of foreign made garments. Wear America proudly.