Following years of advocacy to save the ‘Rochester Tailored Clothing’ factory, which formerly produced the luxury men’s apparel brand Hickey Freeman, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York, and New York State Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that the Tom James Company, the largest U.S maker of custom clothing, plans to purchase the Rochester factory, maintaining nearly 200 union employees and promising to add up to an additional 45 jobs over the next five years.
This acquisition comes after Schumer made a personal appeal to Tom James CEO Todd Browne after the factory was put up for sale earlier this year following recent difficulties. Schumer called on the company to move forward with plans to take over the factory and provide stability and growth for this long-time Rochester facility.
“This 112-year old factory is a Rochester institution, woven into the very fabric of the community. The hundreds of skilled Rochester union workers are the beating heart of this operation, and that is why I’ve fought time and again to keep it in business whenever it faced challenges. For the past few months, the future of the iconic factory was uncertain, but after my personal appeal to Tom James Co. CEO Todd Browne, I’m thrilled to announce that he has heeded my call and Tom James intends to officially acquire this beloved Rochester factory this summer – not only providing stability for its 200 world-class union employees but also adding additional jobs in the coming years,” said Senator Schumer. “When I visited this Rochester facility a few years ago and walked the floor alongside the factory’s hardworking employees, many of whom have worked there for decades, I committed to making sure their future was secure for years to come. Tom James Co., fueled by its own Workers United union workforce, has become an industry leader and is tailor-made to sew success now for Rochester’s future. Today, I’m proud to say that a promise made is a promise kept.”
“Generations of skilled workers have crafted products at this factory that are recognized worldwide for ‘Made in New York’ quality, style, and craftsmanship,” Governor Hochul said. “Thanks to the commitment by Tom James Company, this factory will continue to be a source of employment, high-quality clothing, and Rochester pride for years to come. An additional thanks to all our partners at the local, state, and federal level, along with our friends in labor, for their advocacy and their commitment to keeping this factory open, including Senator Gillibrand, Congressman Morelle, Rochester Mayor Evans, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, and Gary Bonadonna Jr of Workers United.”
Todd Browne, CEO of Tom James said, “Tom James is very excited to welcome the legacy of fine tailoring from Rochester Tailored Clothing into the Tom James family. Tom James remains firmly committed to preserving, and enhancing, the art of garment-making in the United States. We know of no workforce more qualified to further this mission than the men and women of Rochester Tailored Clothing. Tom James expresses its gratitude to Senator Schumer, Governor Hochul, and a host of supporters in New York, for helping to level the playing field for garment manufacturers in the United States, allowing us to compete fairly on the merits of our products and our people against any product made anywhere in the world. If it were not for the combined efforts of Senator Schumer, Governor Hochul, Empire State Development, and many others, we would not be where we are today.”
Lynne Fox, International President of Workers United union, along with Rochester Regional Joint Board Manager, Gary Bonadonna, Jr. said, “We appreciate Senator Schumer going to bat for our members once again, and together with the support of Governor Hochul, working to keep the Rochester Tailored Clothing factory in business and our hundreds of skilled members on the job. We look forward to building on the excellent working relationship we have had with Tom James Co., a company that is committed to union manufacturing in America, including now in Rochester. Together we now look forward to a bright future to strengthen and grow the Rochester factory and its workforce.”
Once Tom James’ acquisition is finalized in the coming weeks, the Rochester Tailored Clothing factory will make both Tom James Co. clothing, as well as custom and wholesale suits for other brands. The company plans to keep the downtown Rochester retail factory store open as well.
Wool Trust Fund
In addition, to ensure the long-term success of Tom James Co. in Rochester, Schumer is now working to secure an extension of the Wool Trust Fund, which is set to expire this year. Schumer is pushing to secure an extension of the Trust Fund in the Farm Bill, which is currently under consideration for reauthorization, because the Trust Fund is vital to maintain the success of the Rochester factory and level the playing field for U.S. suit makers to compete against overseas competitors.
Founded in 1966 by Spencer Hays, and 100% employee-owned today, Tom James Co. is the largest custom clothing manufacturer in the world. Headquartered in the U.S., the company employs 3,000 workers across 13 factories including 9 U.S. factories in which workers are members of the Workers United union – the same union that represents the Rochester factory workforce. Rochester is now set to become Tom James Co.’s 10th domestic manufacturing facility. Vertically integrated, Tom James Co. owns the mills that make their cloth and the facilities that make their clothing.
Schumer has long fought to keep the Rochester factory in business and protect its hardworking employees. In 2009, when the factory’s parent company at the time, Hartmarx, declared bankruptcy, threatening a liquidation and closure of the Rochester factory, Schumer led the charge to save it. Schumer successfully urged Hartmarx’s creditor, Wells Fargo, to continue providing Hartmarx with the credit they needed to continue manufacturing jobs in Rochester, saving hundreds of jobs. In 2012, Schumer once again helped save jobs at the Rochester factory, helping the factory avoid bankruptcy by shepherding a deal that allowed a new ownership group, Grano Retail’s Luxury Men’s Apparel Group (LMAG), to take over the Rochester factory in 2013.
Additionally, the Wool Trust Fund, which Schumer is currently working to extend, compensates the domestic suit industry for the competitive disadvantage that results from an unfair “tariff inversion” where the duty on the imported finished product is lower than the duty on the inputs used to make the product here at home. The program is essential to put the Rochester factory back on a level playing field with overseas suit competitors who import suits into the U.S. without ever having to pay the same wool duties as U.S. suit producers. Without the Wool Trust Fund, the factory’s overseas competitors would have an unfair leg-up while putting our own U.S. manufacturers like Tom James in the lurch for making suits in the U.S.
In 2014, Schumer was instrumental in first securing legislation in that year’s Farm Bill to extend the Wool Trust Fund’s authorization for five years through 2019 and to restore adequate Trust Fund payment levels to address several years when the Trust was underfunded. In the 2018 Farm Bill, he secured the extension of the Wool Trust Fund program through 2023. As a result of these efforts, the Rochester factory is one of the few remaining US-based suit and apparel manufacturers, and with this new acquisition, an extension of the Wool Trust Fund is essential for the factory and its 200 employees to continue bringing new business to the Rochester area.