polo down jacket Majestic deal shift MLB uniform manufacturing overseas
PALMER TOWNSHIP Baseball has long been known as America’s pastime, a sport full of traditions such as the ceremonial first pitch, curtain calls and the seventh inning stretch.
Since 2005, one of those traditions has included outfitting all of its big leaguers with uniforms made in the Lehigh Valley by VF Majestic.
But, according to several reports earlier this week, that partnership will end after the 2019 season. Several outlets, including The Baltimore Sun, reported Under Armour will outfit all Major League Baseball players beginning in 2020 under an agreement reached with the league.
The agreement hasn’t been officially announced, and MLB, Under Armour and VF Majestic have not commented.
While the potential switch from VF Majestic to Under Armour is still years away, it represents a significant shift for Major League Baseball to align with a Baltimore company that was founded just 20 years ago, has a motto of “Aggressive, Young Fearless” and makes a majority of its products outside the United States. For the Lehigh Valley, the move clouds the future of the VF Majestic’s plant in Palmer Township, where about 620 people work, and raises uncertainty around a longtime local apparel maker even as the area’s manufacturing sector continues to grow.
PALMER TOWNSHIP In August 2003, Majestic Athletic Ltd. as it was then known was named the exclusive supplier of uniforms to all 30 teams in Major League Baseball, a contract that started in 2005 and was considered a home run for the apparel company that got its start during the 1970s in the.
(Jon Harris and Anthony Salamone)
It also touches on one of the hot button topics in this year’s presidential election: the outsourcing of American jobs overseas.
In 2015, the publicly held Under Armour’s products were made by 44 primary manufacturers, operating in 16 countries, according to the publicly traded company’s annual report. In addition, approximately 63 percent of its products last year were manufactured in China, Jordan, Vietnam and Indonesia, the report states.
The company notes it has subsidiaries in Hong Kong, Panama, Vietnam, Indonesia and China to support its manufacturing, quality assurance and sourcing efforts for its products. In addition, the report states, as a result of international manufacturing, Under Armour may experience delays in production and shipments, as its products are “subject to risks associated with overseas sourcing and manufacturing.”
While the potential switch from VF Majestic, which makes Major League Baseball uniforms in Palmer Township, to Under Armour is still years away, it represents a significant shift for MLB to align with a Baltimore company that makes a majority of its products outside the United States.
While the potential switch from VF Majestic, which makes Major League Baseball uniforms in Palmer Township, to Under Armour is still years away, it represents a significant shift for MLB to align with a Baltimore company that makes a majority of its products outside the United States. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Under Armour does, however, manufacture a limited number of apparel products, primarily for high profile athletes and teams, at its quick turn Special Make Up Shop located at one of its Maryland distribution facilities, the report states.
When asked whether Under Armour makes any other products in the United States,
company spokeswoman Allison Glass referred The Morning Call to a June news release about the UA Lighthouse, a new 35,000 square foot facility in South Baltimore where the company develops new product and efficient manufacturing processes, which “will then be shared with Under Armour’s global teammates and partner factories.”
Glass, who called the UA Lighthouse the company’s “entryway into domestic manufacturing,” confirmed the facility is not where mass production is occurring but, she added, Under Armour is producing physical product there in certain categories.
It remains unclear where Under Armour would produce the MLB uniforms.
Under Armour’s practice of manufacturing overseas, where labor costs are cheaper and its product sales are increasing, is not uncommon for an apparel company in fact, far from it. According to the American Apparel Footwear Association, 97 percent of all clothes and 98 percent of all shoes sold in the United States are imported.
The issue of sending jobs overseas has repeatedly surfaced during the run up to the presidential election.
Donald Trump has consistently hammered Hillary Clinton for not doing enough to prevent jobs from leaving the United States, persistently calling the North American Free Trade Agreement signed by former President Bill Clinton a “disaster.” Meanwhile, Clinton has fired right back, pointing out that products from the businessman’s apparel line, the Donald J. Trump Collection, were made overseas. VF, with more than 30 brands such as The North Face, Vans and Wrangler and 2015 revenue of $12.4 billion, purchased about 77 percent of its products from independent contractors primarily located in Asia in fiscal 2015, the report states.
The remaining 23 percent of its products were made in VF owned manufacturing facilities in the United States, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Europe. manufacturing includes all MLB uniforms, along with screen printing and embroidery of jerseys, T shirts and fleece products.
Matt Bourne, the MLB’s vice president of business public relations, said the league’s “current contract stipulates that the licensee may only use manufacturers located within the United States in connection with the authentic jerseys and pants.” It remains unclear whether future contracts would be required to have that same stipulation.
Regardless of which company holds the license, David Melman, manager of the Pennsylvania Joint Board Workers United, Service Employees International Union, said the union is committed to making sure its members’ jobs stay in Palmer. The union will take its case to MLB if necessary, he added. “Our members in the [Palmer] facility have the skill and dedication to continue to be part of what’s been a very successful part of baseball.”
Majestic’s history with MLB
Majestic broke into the big leagues in 1982 when it pioneered the batting practice jersey, a baseball shirt worn only for pre game warm ups.
Then, in August 2003, the company won a five year contract, starting in 2005, as the exclusive supplier of uniforms, jackets, T shirts, fleece and turtlenecks to all 30 big league teams. At the time of the announcement, Majestic made official jerseys for 15 MLB teams, while Russell Corp. handled the remaining 15 clubs.
In announcing a contract extension in March 2015 with VF Majestic through the 2019 season, a Major League Baseball executive said the partnership with VF Majestic “goes beyond a licensing agreement.”