Employees in the five New Balance athletic shoe factories in Maine are working around the clock to avoid cheaper prices of imported shoes if a free trade agreement with eight countries including Vietnam is negotiated.
Vietnamese sneakers, for instance, are already very cheap; and a proposed free trade agreement would remove the high tariff on imported footwear and create an even higher import from other countries. New Balance has struggled for years to compete against the cheaper foreign labor and keep its factories right here in the United States, unlike Adidas and Nike.
There are innovative ways that the 1,000 employees are fighting for their jobs at the last remaining U.S. shoe manufacturer. Their hope and prayers are that New Balance will not consider joining the other shoe companies who are making more money by taking the jobs overseas.
Each work station's tasks are precisely timed and have been completely stripped of wasteful actions. It takes only 88 seconds to cut the leather for a pair of shoes, 37 seconds to do the precise stitching, even less time to glue the soles to the uppers, and conversation is very minimal
Although proponents of the fair trade agreement feel that it would open Asian countries to U.S. exports of such things as computers and paper products and raise profits for those manufacturers who have moved their operations overseas, New Balance officials are among many small manufacturers and workers who do not want to see U.S. jobs destroyed at this time of high unemployment.