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Harry C. Alford of the National Black Chamber of Commerce
Published: 07 May 2008

I have had the opportunity to work for three corporate giants. 
Retailers would make 2 – 3 cents on a dollar on Proctor and Gamble soap products but the volume was tremendous. We would emphasize that you take dollars to the bank not percents. Johnson and Johnson products would give them 8 – 9 cents on the dollar and we would stress you make the same amount of money for less investment. Hanes and the rest of the textile industry would make an astronomical amount of money on their product, 40 – 45 percent. Still they would suggest a retail price that would give the retailer a whopping 43 – 47 percent mark up. They and their retailers make "stupid money."
As time went on, the textile industry and its retailers have joined hands for more greed and lust for profits. High tech machinery replaced Hanes' workforce. It went from 30,000 plant workers to 6,000 in a 15 year period. It got worse. NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and other trade agreements sent the textile industry south of the border. What's left is filled with immigrant workers who are nonunion and less demanding on wages. High tech inexpensive machinery and low wages and taxes aren't enough for this insatiable high profit industry. They are constantly seeking the lowest possible costs for the highest amount of profit regardless of humanity and morals.
I knew the fix was in when I attended my first African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) meeting. Ninety percent of the faces attending were White and they represented the textile and apparel industry. The authors of the bill are two White congressmen from White districts. It soon became obvious they didn't care about Africa. This whole deal was about increasing profits. 
It was my first trip to Kenya when I saw what they were all up to. There was a facility managed by people from India. Its ownership was in the name of the President's sister (front company). To our shock, all of the raw material was coming from China. Piles and piles of cotton stamped "Product of China." They had a couple of hundred sisters working the sewing machines making clothes. All of the finished product would state "Made in Kenya," but all Kenyan citizens got were the $60-a-month salaries that the sisters received. The big bucks were going to China and the low cost goods would end up in Wal-Mart, Target, JC Penney's, etc. It would come to the United States duty- and tariff-free and not be charged against the trade imbalance we have with China. Meanwhile the cotton farmers of Kenya were protesting that they were being starved out by their own country and the United States. They were correct. The textile production in Nigeria has reduced its workforce by 80 percent due to this scheme. Thus, from the slave labor of China to the manipulation of Asian engineers and adverse U.S. legislation, the textile industry is making a "killing" for itself and its retailers – at the cost of Africa.
Greed has no end. The textile industry is set to take advantage of the CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement) trade deal. The textile industry has found its "Black Guy" to pull the trigger for them just like he did for the formal extension of the above hustle. They are about to put an amendment on CAFTA that will allow China to run its raw material into Haiti. The textile industry will set up sweat shops and produce very cheap product for entry into the United States duty and tariff free. There is no real benefit to Haiti. This is going to devastate the Dominican Republic (80 percent Black) and other CAFTA nations such as Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador — all of which have high Black populations. The Black congressman and the textile industry don't seem to care. If Wal-Mart is happy, then they are happy too.

Harry Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.

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