FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 25, 2010
SCHUMER: PROPOSAL TO ELIMINATE CRITICAL WOOL TRUST FUND PROGRAM THAT PROVIDES HICKEY FREEMAN WITH MILLIONS IN IMPORT TAX RELIEF HAS BEEN TAKEN OFF THE TABLE; COULD HAVE LEAD TO COMPANY CLOSURE AND 400 LAYOFFS
Today U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that a proposal to end a Wool Trust Fund program has been taken off the table as way to raise revenue for a proposed jobs bill. Schumer, after being contacted by Hickey Freeman officials, wrote OMB Associate Directors Xavier Briggs and Sally Ericsson to urge them to maintain funding for the Wool Trust Fund, a program that has successfully helped companies across the country create and maintain jobs. Schumer said that eliminating this program, which provides Rochester’s iconic Hickey Freeman with substantial import tax relief, could lead to the closure of the Rochester facility, leading to the loss of 400 good paying jobs. Schumer said that to eliminate this program to pay for a jobs bill would be a bitter irony. Schumer today announced that the Wool Trust Fund program is safe and the Hickey Freeman employees could breathe a sigh of relief.
“Today Hickey Freeman employees can take a deep breath and go back to doing what they do best – making world class suits,” said Schumer. “The administration responded to our pleas and did the right thing taking the elimination of this program off the table. We worked too darn hard to save Hickey Freeman jobs and we were not going to see them disappear now. Hickey-Freeman is a Rochester icon and a vibrant business, and I will continue to fight for policies that benefit it and businesses across the region.”
“We are very thankful that this matter was resolved and very thankful to Senator Schumer,” said Homi Patel, Senior Advisor to Emerisque, parent company of Hickey Freeman.
“We’d like to thank Senator Schumer for his continued support of Hickey Freeman and its employees,” said Gary Bonadonna Jr, of Workers United. “The end of the Wool Trust Fund program would have dealt a body blow to us, and we are enormously grateful that the issue has been resolved, and resolved in a way that protects the jobs here.”
Under the Wool Trust Fund program, U.S. manufacturers of wool clothing and fabric are eligible for a partial refund of duties paid on imports of wool inputs. The Wool Trust Fund program also provides U.S. wool producers with funding for improvements in wool production methods and development of the wool market. U.S. manufacturers and wool producers – and their American workers – would be hard hit by elimination of the Wool Trust Fund program. Hickey Freeman saved millions of dollars last year through this program.
Established in 2000, the Wool Trust Fund program has been extended four times, most recently in 2008. In each instance, Congressional support for extension has been overwhelming. The Wool Trust Fund program currently is not scheduled to expire until January 2015.
Hickey Freeman was founded in Rochester, New York in 1899, where it still operates to this day. Wool cloth imported by Hickey Freeman is cut and sewn into wool clothing which, in turn, is sold in stores across the United States and around the world. Generations of American workers and their families have depended on Hickey Freeman for their livelihoods. Over 400 workers and their families still do so today.
Over the past year, Schumer has been deeply involved in the drive to protect Hickey Freeman. In 2009, Schumer successfully urged Wells Fargo to keep credit flowing to Hickey-Freeman’s parent company, Hartmarx, so the people employed by the company would not be at risk of losing their jobs. Later that year, Schumer led employees of Hickey-Freeman’s at a rally designed to keep up the pressure on Well Fargo to continue to provide Hickey-Freeman’s parent company with the credit they need to continue manufacturing operations. Schumer was able to help the company emerge from bankruptcy and avoid liquidation, and his letter to OMB is a part of his continuing work to protect Hickey Freeman workers and manufacturing jobs across the state.
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