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American Factories Like Hickey Freeman Stepped Up During The Pandemic To Manufacture Critical PPE For Their Communities; Feds Will Now Tap American Textile Workers, like those at Hickey Freeman, To Grow U.S Jobs & U.S. PPE Production 

Schumer: ‘Marshall Plan’ For PPE Is Huge Potential Boon For Hickey Freeman & Rochester

Following his visit last month to announce 100 new jobs after fighting for years to keep the Hickey Freeman factory in business, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced that his ‘Marshall Plan’ to secure an onshore supply chain for American-made PPE created by domestic manufacturers, like Hickey Freeman, was successfully included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, passed by the House after prior Senate approval. The bill is now on its way to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

Schumer explained that the ‘Make PPE In America Act’ provision which he helped secure, will guarantee long-term contracts for U.S.-made PPE for federal agencies and the federal strategic stockpile. Schumer said American companies like Hickey Freeman would be eligible for these contracts, which will create jobs and boost U.S. manufacturing. Schumer also noted that given its volatility, depending heavily on the international PPE supply chain is a threat to U.S. national security, health workers, and families. 

“The ‘Make PPE in America Provision’ incorporated into the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, now passed by the whole Congress, will boost American manufacturing and create American jobs – at places like Hickey Freeman in Rochester. Companies like Hickey Freeman stepped up to help their communities in the darkest hour, and their contributions to beating back the tide of COVID will never be forgotten. As Majority Leader, I am proud to have stood by its world-class, unionized workers to fight to successfully secure my ‘Marshall Plan’ to make American-made PPE the domestic standard – as part of the bipartisan infrastructure bill that will soon be signed into law by President Biden,” said Senator Schumer. “The infrastructure bill includes historic new Buy America requirements, including the Make PPE In America Act that will ensure that we continue to strengthen America’s critical supply chains while investing in top-notch American manufacturers and workers like those at Hickey Freeman in Rochester.”

Rochester’s iconic Hickey Freeman made the shift early in the pandemic to make basic PPE for Rochester General Hospital, to fulfill the high demand from healthcare workers. The textile manufacturer reopened its facility that temporarily closed during the outbreak of the pandemic to produce thousands of facemasks at a loss in partnership with the Xerox Corporation, which was also founded in Rochester. However, the COVID–19 pandemic exposed the lack of a coordinated federal strategy to buy PPE from domestic U.S. producers revealing a dire vulnerability in the United States supply chains for PPE. For example, while Hickey Freeman’s sister suit manufacturing factory Samuelsohn in Montreal was tapped by Canada to make $20 million worth of PPE for that nation, companies like Hickey Freeman were not similarly tapped by the U.S. government to fulfill its PPE needs.  That is why Schumer pushed his provision to create a robust, secure, and wholly domestic PPE supply chain to safeguard U.S. public health and national security now and into the future. 

The ‘Make PPE in America Act’ will require U.S. agencies to create multi-year long-term contracts with domestic PPE suppliers, thus providing the necessary certainty and strong and consistent demand needed by U.S. producers to create new PPE manufacturing lines. The lack of multi-year contracts was a significant barrier to ramp up domestic PPE production. The bill will also require the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to create a new U.S. long-term domestic procurement strategy for PPE produced in the United States, including strategies to incentivize investment in and maintain U.S supply chains for all PPE sufficient to meet the needs of the U.S. during a public health emergency. The legislation would encompass all types of PPE from surgical masks, respirator masks, and respirator filters to face shields, protective eyewear, gloves, disposable and reusable surgical and isolation gowns, head and foot coverings, and other gear or clothing. 

Schumer has long fought to keep Hickey Freeman in business in Rochester. In 2009, when Hickey Freeman’s parent company at the time, Hartmarx, declared bankruptcy, threatening a liquidation and closure of the Rochester factory, Schumer led the charge to save this factory. Schumer successfully urged Hartmarx’s creditor, Wells Fargo, to continue providing Hartmarx with the credit they needed to continue manufacturing jobs in Rochester, saving hundreds of jobs. Ultimately, in 2012 Schumer helped save Hickey Freeman from bankruptcy, by shepherding a deal that allowed Grano Retail’s Luxury Men’s Apparel Group (LMAG), in partnership with Hickey Freeman Brand owner Authentic Brands Group (ABG) to take over the Hickey Freeman Rochester factory in 2013. In the time since, Schumer support helped LMAG and Hickey Freeman secure new contracts to manufacture suits for Dillard’s Department Store as well as for Ralph Lauren’s Blue Label line of Polo suits and sports jackets, and even for Hickey Freeman to help produce clothing for the 2016 Team USA Olympic Team.

In December 2018 Schumer secured the provision in the Federal Farm Bill that fully funded the federal Wool Trust Fund program through 2023 which saves Hickey Freeman as much as $3 million a year in relief from unfair tariffs. The Wool Trust Fund was set to expire in 2019, and while the House of Representatives’ version of the Farm Bill included a provision to extend the trust fund until 2023 it also called for the Fund to be cut by 50% which would have jeopardized the viability of Rochester’s Hickey Freeman factory.  Fortunately, Schumer secured a provision in the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill and in the final bill that was signed into law in December 2018 that not only extended the Trust Fund program until 2023, but also fully funded it at 100%. The Wool Trust Fund compensates the domestic suit industry for the competitive disadvantage that results from an unfair “tariff inversion” where the duty on the imported finished product is lower than the duty on the inputs used to make the product here at home. The program is essential to put Hickey Freeman back on a level playing field with overseas suit competitors who import suits into the U.S. without ever having to pay the same wool duties as U.S. suit producers. Without the Wool Trust Fund, Hickey Freeman’s overseas competitors would have an unfair leg-up while putting our own U.S. manufacturers like Hickey Freeman in the lurch for making suits in the USA.  In 2014, Schumer was instrumental to first secure legislation in that year’s federal Farm Bill to extend the Wool Trust Fund’s authorization for five years through 2019 and to secondly restore adequate trust fund payment levels to address several years when the Trust was underfunded. In 2019, he secured the extension of the Wool Trust Fund program through 2023.  As a result of these efforts, Hickey Freeman’s Rochester factory is one of the few remaining US-based suit and apparel manufacturers.