Custom Gear, Made Right Here, 25 Years. Unionwear is the leading manufacturer of union made in USA hats, bags, and binders for the promotional, fashion, and uniform markets. We employ 175 at our 70,000 square foot facility in Newark, NJ. Here is our story:
Domestic manufacturers have had to evolve to survive. Unionwear continuously re-engineers our products so we can manufacture locally without sacrificing clients’ profits. During the peak cheap import era there was no attention paid in China to the amount of labor that went into a product. These designs and habits continue even though labor costs are skyrocketing but domestic manufacturers have decades of experience developing techniques that help achieve the integrity of customers’ designs and functionality and still stay within their budgets.
When workers earn a living wage and health benefits, turnover is low, morale is high, and they have a stake in the company’s success and identify with its clients.
The “Made in USA” label might not convince consumers to spend more on textiles yet, but labor content in product labeling is as important as ever. Popular buzzwords like Locally Grown, Fairly Traded, SweatFree, Union Made, and Living Wage are all certifications that say something about how and where a product is made. Buying local is important to consumers because it demonstrates that you create value in the community. Taking a stand against sweatshops will reduce exploitation and increase worker rights worldwide. Devastating factory fires continue to occur in unsafe working conditions to this day.
For years, Unionwear had focused on providing products to clients requiring products to be made in USA, so we were not forced to compete with imports on price. The US military and federal government accounted for a third of our business, with clients like labor unions and presidential campaigns representing much of the balance.
However, the era of cheap imports is over. Inflation, labor unrest, and burgeoning consumer demand in Asia, the weak dollar and fears of the artificially devalued Yuan, and transportation costs and headaches have led textile companies to hedge production by including domestic components. As the premium paid for domestic production shrinks, more and more markets are enforcing labor standards in their procurement: Colleges. Federal, state, and local governments. Corporations with a strong union workforce for employee gear. Nonprofits. Since 2011 Unionwear has even seen a surge in contract work for the garment business.
We often expect to undergo several rounds of sampling during product development, which is much easier with domestic manufacturers. For the first time in twenty years, you can actually reduce costs by manufacturing some products or assembling parts of your products domestically. We look for bulky products made from expensive fabrics in quantities large enough to build a dedicated, lean manufacturing production line, but not so large that China is turning them out by the millions.