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A Question for Donald Trump
The Villager, New York on November 17, 2011

American military-style uniform made in China
An American military-style uniform made in China on sale in an army/navy store
in Vienna, Austria. Photograph by Clayton Patterson

A question to Donald Trump since he is presidential material and does business in our part of New York City. First, let’s agree that we differ in opinion about Occupy Wall Street. (See my Oct. 27 piece in The Villager, “O.W.S. has many messages: Ignore them at your own risk.”) And it is with our difference on O.W.S. that I bring forward this question.

The question is related to jobs. And it is the base of another reason why I don’t support these foreign wars inspired by special-interest groups. Included in the question is the idea of lost jobs, and who our military is fighting for if the uniforms are made in China?

A part of war is protecting one’s own resources, future and industrial complexes, like manufacturing and factories. Much of the stability of a country and a community is related to jobs for the masses. Most people are not lazy. They want an opportunity to work, have a family, buy a home, and attain all that is attached to the American Dream. But look on the Internet and see where America’s lost manufacturing base has gone — China. However, this latest example is an even more brutal reality.

I was in Austria and I spoke to a man who owned an army/navy-type store. He was having real problems getting American military uniforms to sell because of the “Made in China” label. Austrians do not want “Made in China” American military wear. I believe he was having a similar problem with Smith & Wesson knives.

Donald, as a Republican, how can you support the making of U.S.A. military uniforms in China? Why aren’t you vocal about this fact? Another reason for O.W.S. to exist.

And by the way, we — you and I — did have an interaction in 1989. On April Fools’ Day, April 1, the city of New York came in, evicted, then, in the same day, tore down a five-story tenement that was being squatted as their home by Tia Scot and her family. Tia was devastated. You put her up in the Chelsea Hotel for a month.

I came with Tia to your office in Midtown. I always remember your generosity and help in that situation. For Tia, an elegant lady, a shelter was the last, bottom-end option. So, thanks for that emotional and mentally stabilizing help. Your care sheltered a devastated woman.

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Re “Outsourcing is killing us”
(letter, by Clayton Patterson, Dec. 1), which was a follow-up to
“A question for Donald Trump on losing our jobs base” (by Clayton Patterson, Nov. 17):

My name is John Ottaviano and I am the director of sales for Rothco. Serendipitously, The Villager just ran an obituary for my uncle Frank Ottaviano, who passed away a few weeks ago (“Francis Ottaviano, 85, of Village medical dynasty,” Nov. 24).

It was interesting to me that your newspaper would run something like this without checking that it was factually correct.

I have no idea what Mr. Patterson is speaking about when he claims to have spoken to our Philippines office. We have no Philippines office. That is a lie. Our office is in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., and employs nearly 150 American workers, as well as some of those, like my ancestors, who have immigrated here legally. Our number is 800-645-5195 and the phone is always answered by one of our American workers.

We do have an affiliated company in Puerto Rico that actually predates our 1953 origins that specializes in sporting goods and safety equipment; so one could certainly reach a Spanish-speaking individual there.

Our company originally was started in a loft on, of all places, Great Jones St. in the Village in 1953 by Milton Somberg, who still runs the company along with his son Howard. We moved to Brooklyn a few years later, then out to Long Island to Smithtown and then to Ronkonkoma.

We are not an official supplier of U.S. military uniforms, though our products have been supplied to the U.S. military through our partner government suppliers. The products and clothing we sell are made overseas, as well as in the United States. Most of our sales are made to army-navy stores, like Uncle Sam’s Army Navy on Eighth St. in the Village, and are used by working people, students, for fashion, paintball and Airsoft, hunting, camping, etc.

While there is a large market for military-style clothing for consumer use (does Mr. Patterson actually take a look at what folks in the Village are wearing?), the uniforms that are issued to our soldiers are made by other companies that, for the most part, use production in the United States to make these uniforms.

Yes, as Mr. Patterson noted in his “A question for Donald Trump” column, that is indeed our jacket hanging in the store in Austria since our products are sold at retailers all over the world. The vast majority of our products are sold in small, independent retailers like Uncle Sam’s.

At one time, the vast majority of our production was in factories in Tennessee. Unfortunately, many consumers became unwilling to pay for U.S.-made clothing and the U.S. military was not providing enough orders pre-9/11 to keep U.S. military clothing factories working on a consistent basis. Because of this, nearly all of these factories have shut down. Clothing production is not something that can be turned on and off like a faucet; it must be steady to keep machines running and people working. While many folks give lip service to the desire of having U.S.-made products, few are willing to make the required commitment at the cash register. As they say, everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.

Because of this, we have had to move production overseas in order to be competitive. As I said, most of our goods are sold to army-navy and clothing stores — and a pair of pants is a pair of pants and folks became unwilling to pay for U.S.-made fatigues.

When the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, thousands of soldiers turned to the army-navy stores and on-base suppliers for supplies because, frankly, the U.S. military had a woefully inadequate supply of goods. Our military personnel needed uniforms, socks, knives, compasses, duty gear, etc., and the government was unable to send these troops overseas adequately equipped. If it were not for the army-navy dealers stocking our products and gear from similar companies, many of our soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors would not have had the things they needed to fight for their country.

Things are not as simple as Mr. Patterson would have you believe. Yes, we would love to have more U.S. production. When we did, the logistics were simpler and it was much easier to visit the factories. But our economic system is one where people vote with their dollars and, for the most part, people have voted for less-expensive products. Where we offer a choice of both U.S.-made and less-expensive product, the less-expensive product is the far better seller.

Let’s remember that we now live in a global economy and that the workers making the clothing benefit from making these products. Over the years, the vast wage inequity around the globe has decreased and, eventually, wages worldwide will balance out.

I am personally a strong supporter of the values of Occupy Wall Street, but while there is a great imbalance between the 1 percent and the 99 percent in this country, American workers have also been the beneficiaries of a great wage imbalance that is beginning to level off as the economies around the world come into equality. The benefit of this will be that, as workers in other countries make better wages, they will be able to purchase U.S.-made products.

Mr. Patterson would like to discuss this in greater detail, I suggest he call the number listed on every page of our Web site at, 800-645-5195

Ottaviano is director of sales and marketing, Rothco

Re “A question for Donald Trump on losing our jobs base” (Clayton, Nov. 17):

ROTHCO is one of the largest companies that sells American military uniforms. Its Web site stated that the head office was in Long Island. I called what I thought was the head office. I could hardly understand the person on the phone. It turns out that the office is in the Philippines

The politicians are always blaming each other about who lost the most jobs

It is all a lie.

Corporate America has moved the manufacturing base overseas. The politicians are all deceiving us about who lost the jobs. Another reason to support Occupy Wall Street.
Clayton Patterson

Bring production back home | December 15, 2011 | Filed under: Clayton Patterson

Labels from Rothco garments in a Viennese army-navy store.
Labels from Rothco garments in a Viennese army-navy store.
Photograph by Clayton Patterson

John Ottaviano, I appreciate your taking the time to respond to my column (“Going overseas was the only option for our company,” talking point, by John Ottaviano, Dec. 8).

First, I want to state that I have a great respect for Milton Somberg, who founded and built Rothco company. I strongly believe in the good, old- fashioned, small-time capitalism that once thrived in America and which made it, in the past, into the greatest free country in the world. A country that had opportunities.

I was in Vienna, Austria, and spoke to an army-navy dealer who sells your Rothco products. I was shocked, disappointed and a little angry when he told me that he had a serious problem trying to sell your product line because of the “Made In China” label.

You explain that because we are engaged in so many foreign wars, the U.S. military can’t supply the soldiers with all the clothing and equipment they need. So, you continue, Rothco is one of the companies the military has authorized to fill that gap. But is going overseas the solution — and should China profit from our wars?

Labels from Rothco garments in a Viennese army-navy store.
Labels from Rothco garments in a Viennese army-navy store.
Photograph by Clayton Patterson

Corporate America has moved so many of the jobs to China that they own our debt, and now our military warriors who are dying and being maimed are in uniforms “Made In China.” As the photos show, the labels clearly say, “Made in China.”

In 1995, as president of the Tattoo Society of New York, I was contacted by an Austrian entertainment company to bring to Europe famous American tattoo artists and sideshow performers. I was also invited to be the shows’ documentarian. Over the last 15 years, I have traveled extensively in Germany and Austria.

In 1995, American-made really meant something to Europeans. The public was very welcoming to Americans. Then the tone changed when George W. Bush was elected, but the expressed feeling was, O.K., mistakes can happen. After Bush won a second term, except for close friends, I felt a noticeable negative change in the average person’s attitude toward America. In fact, recently, Bush canceled his Switzerland trip because of a call from political leaders, as well as regular folks, to arrest him on charges of allowing political prisoners to be tortured.

Nevertheless, Mr. Ottaviano, if you have ambitions of expanding Rothco’s business in places like Austria, I would suggest you supply American-made products because that’s the demand.

I, like Milton Somberg, had a light-manufacturing business in a Downtown loft. In 1985, I created the Clayton Cap. Elsa, my wife, and I were the first people to put a label, a signature, on the outside of the baseball cap, and to move the embroidery off its front and go around the whole cap. We designed embroidered, custom baseball caps following the client’s request. We received tremendous press, including a GQ article. Richard Merkins said we were one of the two best American-made baseball caps.

Mr. Somberg knows this fact: In Mayor Koch’s first term, garment making was the city’s number one manufacturing industry. By Koch’s third term, it was in free-fall.
We did the trade shows, sold our caps to small, owner-operated stores in London, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Hollywood and in Australia and Japan. But outsourcing was a main killer of our business.


see the caps we made

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