HIGHTOWER: The Underwear War

Just when you think it can't get any weirder in Washington, here comes: "The Underwear War."In the recent budget-and-tax deal cut by Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, there was an underhanded attempt to pull-off another NAFTA trade scam on behalf of some major makers of . . . undies!The charge was led by Sara Lee, which owns both Hanes and Wonderbra, and has moved much of its skivvy-making operations to the Caribbean, where it gets labor dirt cheap. Now, though, these Caribbean-based companies also want to ship their cheaply-made knickers back to the United States without paying a dime in tariffs, just as Mexican-based manufacturers can do under NAFTA.So their lobbyists attempted to slip their "Caribbean NAFTA" into the recent budget-and-tax bill. They undercut the usual legislative process -- no hearings, no public debate, not even a floor vote. This undercover ploy, supported by some powerful Republican lawmakers and by the White House, was headed to passage . . . until there was [riiiip] a rip in the solidarity of the underwear industry.Suddenly, Fruit of the Loom loomed in opposition to this sneaky deal. This giant in the undergarment biz has extensive operations in Mexico, and it didn't want its competitors to have both NAFTA benefits and Caribbean labor, which is even cheaper than Mexican labor. So, it hired a top-drawer lobbying firm that includes former senate majority leaders Bob Dole and George Mitchell to undermine the Caribbean underwear amendment.In the end, the lobbying clout of these heavyhitters prevailed, and the amendment was snipped from the budget deal.This is Jim Hightower saying . . . But don't underestimate the Caribbean underwear makers -- they'll be back this fall, trying to pull-off this new NAFTA and further undercut Made-in-the-USA products. The Underwear War has only begun -- you can bet your shorts on it.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card

Close

Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.