Textiles Push for Protectionism

October 11, 1985

Report Outline
Surge of Imports
Growth and Restraints
Free Trade Debate
Special Focus

Surge of Imports

Bleak Future for American Textile Workers

The Future looks bleak for the nation's oldest industry. Since 1980, 300,000 textile and garment workers have lost their jobs, and employment is at its lowest level since the government began keeping records in the 1940s. The men and women who depend on textiles for a livelihood blame their ills on imports, which have grown an average of 19 percent a year over the past four years. Manufacturers often refer to textiles as “the forgotten giant of American industry. And they warn that without more protection most textile jobs will disappear in the 1990s. “We are going to go down, down, down,” textile worker Carrie Gillen of Mount Holly, N.C., told a House subcommittee during hearings on the impact of imports. “The fact is, it [the flood of imports] is killing us.”

Each month, more plants cut back operating hours and others close for good—250 since 1980. “This is a multibillion-dollar business that we are busy giving away,” said Carole Ayres, director of the Congressional Textile Caucus. Alarmed by this prospect, Congress appears ready to act. More than two-thirds of the House members, 292, and a majority of the Senate, 54, have signed on as sponsors of legislation that would impose new import restrictions on textiles and apparel.

“Immediate passage of the Textile and Apparel Trade Enforcement Act of 1985 is the only way our government can handle this increasingly serious problem and avoid layoffs and plant closings,” said E. S. McKissick Jr., president of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute. “We are in the court of last resort. If this [import] trend continues, it will destroy most of the domestic textile and apparel industry by 1990.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Cotton and Textiles
Oct. 11, 1985  Textiles Push for Protectionism
May 13, 1953  Troubles of the Textile Industry
Sep. 10, 1945  Plight of Cotton
Jul. 09, 1943  Civilian Apparel
Sep. 01, 1939  Cotton Exports and Export Subsidies
Mar. 22, 1937  World Stabilization of the Textile Industry
Oct. 12, 1934  Cotton Exports and Crop Reduction
Jul. 15, 1929  Labor in the South
Oct. 24, 1927  The Cotton Situation in the United States
Exports and Imports
Manufacturing and Industrial Production