PASSAIC, N.J. (AP) — The owners of a family-run New Jersey factory that makes uniforms for the Girl Scouts of America said they may be forced to close or lay off workers if the organization takes its business to China.
Jackie Evans Inc. employs 90 workers at its plant in Passaic, a once-booming manufacturing city in northern New Jersey, about 10 miles west of New York City. They’ve been the making uniforms and sashes for the sole client for about a decade.
The Girl Scouts told the company a few weeks ago that it would be seeking bids, including one from a company in China, according to Domenick Monaco, the son of owner Mario Monaco.
“Our main motive is to keep jobs in the United States, and find a fair way to keep prices affordable,” Domenick Monaco said, who helps run the company. He said his family was exploring ways to come up with a bid by the mid-November deadline, including seeking grants or government help to keep prices competitive.
Barry Horowitz, vice president and general manager for merchandise for the Girl Scouts, emphasized that no decision has been reached.
The organization is soliciting proposals from four companies. Two are overseas, including one in China, Horowitz confirmed.
“We are engaging in good business practices,” he said in a telephone interview Friday. “Like any manufacturer who uses fabric, we have an obligation to deliver the best value to our members and their parents. We can’t know if we’re doing that unless we test the market.”
Domenick Monaco said despite his family’s good relationship with the Girl Scouts, the loss of the contract would likely mean the end of the business his father has worked in since 1968.
“I cannot compete if they (Chinese manufacturers) are setting their prices at half of what I’m making,” Monaco said.
The only uniform components that Girl Scouts are required to buy from the organization are sashes, which retail for $5.50 to $6.50, and vests, which run from $15.75 to $20, Horowitz said.
He said it is possible a new vendor would produce the apparel more cheaply, enabling Girl Scouts to lower the price it charges its members, or at least keep the price from rising in the near future.
Some are concerned, however, that farming out the work to a place like China could result in Girl Scout uniforms being made by child labor in poor working conditions.
State Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. wrote the Girl Scouts’ president to say American scouts could wear uniforms made “in part by young girls who would be deemed not old enough to work in the United States.”
Horowitz said the Girl Scouts are diligent about checking out potential suppliers to prevent such problems.
“We have a strict arrangement with vendors that they need to ensure that all appropriate laws are adhered to,” he said. “We’re very rigid about who does our work.”
Horowitz would not critique the quality of the Passaic company’s work, saying the main goal behind seeking bids from other suppliers is to ensure the best possible price.
He said the process should be completed by the end of the year.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)