There are countless products that bear the label “Made in the USA.” However, in reality, while people think they are purchasing goods made in the United States, many things that carry that label are actually not made in America. Every single day, products that are not actually manufactured in the country and that are not even made from materials made in the US are being labeled as “Made in the USA.”
This is a clear case of false advertising. In addition, if a company is placing the “Made in the USA” label on its products and they are not made in America with American components, it is essentially breaking the law. At this point in time, American Apparel is one of the only companies that is labeling its clothing fairly — its labels read, “Made in USA with US and imported components.” Its clothing is made in Southern California, with an Organic Line available as well as a result of its claim of commitment to sustainability.
Many Companies Divided On "Cotton Pledge"
American Apparel is one of the only retailers in the US that refuses to sign a pledge that prevents it from knowingly obtaining cotton from Uzbekistan, a country that forces people into working in cotton production. Forever 21, however, claimed that it would sign that pledge. American Apparel as well as Polo Ralph Lauren and some other companies ignore pleas from others in signing the Cotton Pledge. The pledge’s purpose is to enable companies “to not knowingly source Uzbek cotton for the manufacturing of our products until the Government of Uzbekistan ends the practice of forced child and adult labor in its cotton sector.”
Activists are extremely frustrated by the silence of these companies. Patricia Jurewicz, founder and director of the Responsible Sourcing Network, which created the Cotton Pledge, said that she would love to have the companies sign and that it is a travesty that they have not done so.
Sarah Newell of the Cotton Campaign states that continuing to purchase Uzbek cotton is an endorsement of slavery. Her organization fights for human rights with other businesses in the fight to end forced labor in Uzbekistan. She believes that every company should take a stand and boycott cotton from the country because of its practice of forced labor into the cotton industry.
The Cotton Pledge came to fruition in 2011 and started with companies that refused to source Uzbek cotton. Currently, more than 200 companies have joined in, including Disney, Target and Walmart. Forever 21 signed the pledge in October 2016. The company stated that it shares the goal of eliminating child and adult forced labor and that it is fully committed to the cause.
Glue Company Settles FTC "Made in the USA" Lawsuit
It is not just apparel companies that are using the “Made in the USA” label erroneously. Another company, Chemence Inc., which is incorporated in Ohio but has offices in several other countries, was sued by the Federal Trade Commission for marketing glue products as being made in the US. However, it was determined by investigators that chief ingredients in several of its products were sourced outside of the country.
However, an agreement was reached that results in Chemence agreeing to stop using the “Made in USA” label on products that do not meet federal guidelines for such a claim. The company did not admit or deny the allegations from the FTC and is required to pay a judgment of $200,000.
While there is no approval process or pre-marketing investigation for products that claim to be “Made in USA,” there are federal standards that are clear and concise in determining the legal use of the claim. Those are that the item must be manufactured in the US and that the materials that were used to make it must also be made in the US.