The following "Res Publica" column appeared in the Friday, November 29, 2013, edition of the Post-Gazette, the Italian-American Voice of Massachusetts.
Thankful for a Job
by David Trumbull
November 29, 2013
If your household is anything like mine, you are still eating turkey leftovers as you read this week's Post-Gazette. As we finish off the culinary remains of Thanksgiving Day, I suggest we keep alive the sentiment of the holiday by maintaining a spirit of thankfulness. For 300 employees of Sterlingwear of Boston thanksgiving for a good paying, unionized job may be on their lists. Sterlingwear is a Massachusetts manufacturing success story. So successful that, when about a decade ago, the volume of business making coats and jackets exceeded the capacity of the East Boston factory. President and Chief Executive Officer Frank G. Fredella could easily have relocated to any number of cheap, practically abandoned, factories in distressed Fall River. That city would have been so happy to see him bring jobs that he could have negotiated substantial tax breaks. "I am an East Boston person," Mr. Fredella told me in a recent interview, "I went to grammar school in East Boston and my first part-time job at age 16 was in East Boston."
When I met with Fredella and his Director of Sales and Marketing, Jack Foster, recently, I learned that the Fredella family, which started the business in 1965, passed on the opportunity to relocate and save money. They refused to consider laying off their talented and dedicated workers in Boston. Management can thank the workers as well. Their industriousness and skill has earned Sterlingwear one of the highest honors -- supplier to the United States Department of Defense. Since 1968 Sterling has been the supplier, to the U.S. Navy, of navy peacoats. They have several other military contracts as well, and, as anyone who knows anything about military or military-style apparel can tell you, certification as a Dept. of Defense contractor is the "gold standard" for that sector of the apparel market.
The peacoats made for the U.S. Navy are made in Boston, of fabric woven in Massachusetts, of yarn spun in Massachusetts, of wool grown in the U.S. They have to be, because of a law, known as the Berry Amendment (U.S.C. Title 10, Section 2533a), which goes back to 1941 and was first enacted as part of America's preparation for World War Two which requires the Dept. of Defense to give preference American made products. In the case of clothing or textiles of wool, every stage of production from growing the wool to sewing the coat must take place in America.
The quality of a Made in U.S.A. Sterlingwear peacock is appreciated around the world. Sterlingwear exports to our free trade partners Australia and Canada. In Japan, where consumers like anything America, Sterlingwear is very popular. And in a trade pattern Jack calls, "Getting some of our dollars back," Sterlingwear is exporting to China where the growing class of consumers with money to buy the best available are turning to high quality, American-made apparel.
Sterlingwear has two retail shops, 175 William McClellan Highway in East Boston and Pheasant Lane Mall, 310 Daniel Webster Highway, Nashua, N.H. Or shop online at http://www.sterlingwear.com.
When you buy a Sterlingwear product you are helping maintain jobs in Massachusetts!