With all of the excitement (deservedly so) surrounding President-Elect Trump’s announcement that 1,100 Carrier jobs in Indiana will be saved, we would be remiss in not taking a moment to thank U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin for working tirelessly to save 900 jobs right here in Maine. New Balance, the only major athletic shoe company that still makes shoes in the United States and that employs hundreds of people in its five shoe factories in New England, stands to benefit greatly from Rep. Poliquin’s legislation requiring the Pentagon to issue American-made athletic footwear to military recruits.
The recent Portland Press Herald story reporting the military’s domestic purchasing requirements did not describe Rep. Poliquin’s “heavy lifting” on this issue. Rep. Poliquin began championing this process in March of 2016, testifying in front of the House Armed Services Committee in support of the use of quality American-made products for our military personnel. In April of 2016, Rep. Poliquin successfully added language to the Defense bill to enforce the Berry Amendment, a piece of 75-year-old legislation that requires the Department of Defense to give preference to American-made products.
Rep. Poliquin’s Stepping Up for American Workers and Troops Act requires the Department of Defense to adhere to the longstanding law ensuring that American troops are outfitted with American-made goods. In May of 2016, Representative Poliquin’s language in the Defense bill passed in the House of Representatives. In June of 2016, the Senate passed their version of the Defense bill with the crucial “Made-in-America” language. In June of 2016, Rep. Poliquin successfully urged hundreds of his colleagues on the House Floor to vote down an amendment that would have stripped the Made-in-America language from the Defense bill. After the bill went to conference, the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act did include the requirement that the Department of Defense provide military recruits with American-made shoes. The NDAA was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on December 2, 2016. The Senate is expected to approve the NDAA shortly, after which the NDAA will go to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
Why have I – a lawyer – taken such an interest in this story? Because I am a third generation Greek-American with deep roots in the New England shoe industry. All four of my grandparents worked (as children!) in shoe factories in both Haverhill and Fitchburg, Massachusetts. By the time my maternal grandfather was just 33 years old, he owned a small shoe and pocketbook factory. My mother’s first job was working as the executive assistant to another Greek-American, Peter Pappas, who owned a large shoe company. Notably, New Balance is owned by Greek-American Jim Davis. For years, my many Greek relatives have lamented the closing of one shoe factory after another in their beloved New England. So, I have followed Rep. Poliquin’s efforts to save this last bastion of shoe manufacturing with great personal interest. Rep. Poliquin, I — and my 88-year old mother, Ann Sarbanis Thanos — thank you very much!