WASHINGTON, DC -- Congressman Mike Michaud met with New Balance employees today at one of the footwear company's Maine factories, in Norridgewock. Michaud's visit comes one week after he announced that the Department of Defense would ensure that all service members wear American-made athletic footwear, following years of advocacy from Michaud.
Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine Fox wrote to Michaud last Friday to inform him of the policy shift.
"Maine's manufacturers are some of the finest, most dedicated in the country," said Michaud. "I was so pleased to have the opportunity to talk with some of the New Balance employees at Norridgewock today. There is not a doubt in my mind that they are ready for the task ahead as New Balance gears up to move forward. This decision is a win-win for everyone -- certainly for our New Balance employees, but also for our service members who will now wear some of the highest-quality footwear available."
Michaud led the national, bipartisan effort to bring DoD policy into compliance with the Berry Amendment. He spoke with President Obama about the issue multiple times, and also engaged with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, U.S. Trade Representatives Michael Froman and Ron Kirk, and top acquisition officials in the armed services.
Last December, to dispel the notion that American companies could not produce Berry-compliant footwear, Michaud delivered two pairs of Berry-compliant sneakers to U.S. Trade Representative Froman. The athletic shoes came with certificates detailing how every piece of the shoe was American-made.
"I worked in the paper mill in East Millinocket for decades, just like my father and grandfather before me. I understand how important it is to take proactive steps to not just sustain, but grow, Maine manufacturing," added Michaud. "I'm confident that the hundreds of New Balance employees in our state will benefit tremendously from this victory, and I'll continue to do every single thing I can to stand up for American manufacturers."
Highlights of Michaud's leadership on the Berry Amendment issue can be found below and online here:
April 28, 2010: In response to DOD's unsatisfactory response to his inquiries, Mike worked with Reps. Larry Kissell (D-NC) and Howard Coble (R-NC), a House Armed Service Committee Member, to insert an amendment into the House-passed Fiscal Year 2011 National Defense Authorization bill that required GAO to study the DOD's use of the cash allowance.
July 7, 2011: Mike successfully got amendment to DOD authorization passed that said no funds in the bill can be spent in violation of the Berry amendment requirements.
August 2011: Mike visited the New Balance Skowhegan plant as part of his Made in Maine Tour.
September 9, 2011: Mike led a letter with the Maine and Massachusetts House Delegations to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), stating that TPP negotiations cannot and should not undermine the U.S. footwear industry.
September 16, 2011: Mike continued to press DOD on compliance with the Berry Amendment, and introduced the American Shoes for American Servicemembers Act to address this problem. This bill simply clarified what was already in current law: that the Berry Amendment covers footwear. This commonsense legislation makes Congressional intent explicit and ensures that all components of our troops' uniforms, including their physical training uniforms, are made in the U.S.A.
September 16, 2011: Mike appealed to President Obama in a letter urging him to force DOD to fully comply with the spirit and the intent of the Berry Amendment.
September 30, 2011: To continue to raise awareness of this issue at the highest levels, Mike presented First Lady Michelle Obama with a pair of New Balance sneakers when she visited Maine.
February 2012: Mike pressed President Obama's economic advisor, Gene Sperling, on the benefits and effectiveness of an Executive Order instructing the Secretary of Defense to fully comply with the Berry amendment.
March 30, 2012: Mike hand-delivered Maine-made, personalized sneakers to President Obama and in their face-to-face conversation implored him to force DOD to comply with the Berry Amendment.
July 2012: Mike organized a press conference with Maine New Balance workers in D.C. to urge Obama to fight to preserve footwear tariffs as the negotiations for TPP got underway. And Mike organized a meeting with the New Balance workers and USTR Ron Kirk to discuss the domestic footwear industry.
September 13, 2012: USTR Kirk visited the New Balance Norridgewock facility as a result of an invitation Mike extended during their July meeting. It was the first American footwear facility the USTR had ever visited.
In numerous meetings with administration officials, Mike has raised this issue, making the same points that he made to the President--complying with the Berry Amendment is the right thing to do. Our soldiers deserve to wear uniforms that are 100 percent American-made.
October 23, 2012: Mike teamed up with Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and more than 50 of their bipartisan colleagues, to send a letter to DOD urging full compliance with the Berry Amendment. In following-up, Mike continued to press this issue again with the President and with his highest-level staffers as well as with the USTR and various officials at the Department of Defense.
May 14, 2013: Mike arranged a meeting with Army Undersecretary Joseph W. Westphal and New Balance to discuss getting the Army to procure Berry-compliant athletic footwear for Army recruits.
June 14, 2013: Mike successfully passed an amendment with Rep. Niki Tsongas(D-MA) to the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization bill that would force DOD to directly supply new military recruits with Berry-compliant athletic footwear instead of providing a cash allowance. The amendment made an exception for any recruit that is medically determined to need different footwear than the Berry-compliant options. After the successful inclusion of the amendment in the House bill, the Senate failed to include a similar provision. As a result, the final defense bill contained weak language that does not require DOD to comply with the law.
June 29, 2013: Mike toured a New Balance factory with USTR Michael Froman.
December 2013: Mike had two pairs of New Balance Berry-compliant shoes delivered to the USTR and the Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, along with Berry compliance certifications for each component of the shoe.
February 4, 2014: While at the White House for a meeting with the President on 2014 legislative priorities, Mike asked the President to issue an Executive Order requiring DoD to comply with the Berry amendment.
February 13, 2014: Talked to DoD Acting Deputy Secretary Christine Fox to urge DoD to comply with the Berry Amendment.
April 12, 2014: Mike spoke with Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition) Frank Kendall about the importance of complying with the Berry Amendment.