Olive Hill, Kentucky

Olive Hill, Kentucky, is home to a fifty year old apparel manufacturing plant that supplies military and combat apparel to the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force.  As one of the largest employers in the small town, every family in Olive Hill is somehow connected to the factory.  In fact, the factory employs nearly ten percent of Olive Hill’s workforce.  

In recent years, domestic textile and apparel manufacturers like the one in Olive Hill are in jeopardy of closing their doors.  It is not outsourcing that puts these jobs at risk.  You see, under the Berry Amendment, federal regulations require U.S. military garments and footwear to be made in the United States.  Because of the Berry Amendment, these domestic manufacturers strive to provide the best possible product to protect our soldiers at war.  

The threat that the residents of Olive Hill face are federally-incarcerated inmates, like those just a ninety-minute drive away from Olive Hill City Hall, who are able to steal jobs from hardworking American families.  Federal Prison Industries (FPI), a government-run program that puts inmates to work in prison, enjoys an unbridled preference when it comes to unfairly claiming federal contracts to outfit our servicemen and women.  The United States Penitentiary Big Sandy is just one of 24 federal facilities that use prison labor to produce military gear.

While some think that using prison labor may help keep costs down and save taxpayers money, FPI bases pricing on current market conditions, even though “workers” only get paid as little as 23 cents per hour.

Despite Congress’s best intentions, FPI’s impact on the apparel industry has dramatically worsened in recent years.   In the last decade, our industry has watched FPI’s share of the military clothing market grow while the size of the overall military clothing market has declined due to budget constraints and troop drawdowns.  While the domestic industry is already planning for more cutbacks, FPI is looking to expand its market share.

AAFA-member factories – like the one in Olive Hill – continue to tell stories of lost contracts to FPI because of FPI’s ability to unilaterally take any contract they choose.  These situations have led to layoffs, job losses, and, in some cases, the closure of whole factories.  

Moreover, FPI also represents millions of dollars of lost opportunities as companies are not even afforded an opportunity to bid on contracts that could have led to job retention and creation, along with a preservation of a warm industrial base so vital to both our national security and the safety of our soldiers, airmen and women, sailors, and marines.

Keeping the Berry Amendment strong is vital for both the safety of our service men and women and the overall health of the U.S. apparel and footwear industry.  Allowing FPI to steal market share from U.S. manufacturers and hard-working taxpayers erodes the effectiveness of the Berry Amendment, and the security of our troops in the field.  Join us in protecting our troops and supporting the U.S. domestic apparel and footwear manufacturing jobs like the jobs in Olive Hill, Kentucky, by signing our “We the People” petition for action on WhiteHouse.gov