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On My Mind

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

USA WORKS Update and Product Reviews

A few months ago, I wrote about the dilemma facing customers and retailers who liked USA WORKS jeans but were concerned that they were being temporarily imported due to a fire at a Sapko sewing plant. Many readers participated in a blog poll on this topic, and a majority of you said you would feel better about continuing to support Sapko if the company would talk about their plans on their website.

Yesterday I noticed that the company has done just that—the Sapko website even has photographs of the burned facility. Since we got what we wanted, I think we should tell them thanks. I like this company and I like their jeans. I’m looking forward to the day when I can once again get USA WORKS with the pocket tag that says “Made by Hard Working Americans for Hard Working Americans.”

Product Reviews
In the interest of product research, I’ve been shopping again. (You wouldn’t expect me to recommend something without trying it out myself, would you?!)

  • I’m loving my Truck Jeans because of the stretch denim, though I confess I am having to get used to low-rise jeans. Needed a longer belt, so Natural Reflections to the rescue! Conard made me 2 belts, and a special-order child’s length too. Very nice leather and quick service.
  • C&C California: I was very happy with the clingy fit of the extra long sleeved tee, though the sheer tee really needs to be layered, which effectively doubles the price—ouch! The best selling point is the wide range of colors and the very quick shipment. I am layering with A.S.Tees.
  • American Apparel: The Classic Girl Sustainable Edition tank is totally soft and made from 100% certified organic cotton. It makes a great layer under tees. Thanks to my niece for that one! (Buy Classic Girl T-Shirts from American Apparel.)
  • Perfect pj’s: I teamed up Boxercraft tartan flannel lounge pants (available from BuyAmerican.com) with Wickers mid-weight tees to create cozy pj’s that didn’t make me look like my grandmother. I love my Wickers!! They’re almost sinful.
More later on new additions to StillMadeinUSA.com.


At 2:00 PM, Blogger fiber_tek said...

I got this e-mail back from USA Works...

Dear Mr. Jones,

Thank you for your inquiry, and please note that we will begin shipping USA WORKS from our new domestic production at the end of the third or early fourth quarter 2006. Our new facility is under construction now and we should begin our manufacturing in August.

Kind Regards,

Chris A Baumgarner
Director of Supply Chain Management
Sapko International, Inc.
7505 Durand Ave.
Sturtevant, WI 53177
262-554-3238 Ext 419
Fax: 262-554-9751

At 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wanted to update this blog for others who may be searching the web on where to buy "USA Works" jeans. I, myself, have been doing just that, hoping against hope to find some and that the company was back in production. I just got off the phone with A Sapko Co. customer service rep and she explained to me that the costs of manufacturing were just too high to again begin producing this line. However, they are making the jeans under the 'Five Brother' label, and swears it is the exact same pattern that my husband so loves: the carpenter dungaree with the crotch gusset. I have a pair coming directly to me and will be examining it, having hubby wear it for the final, ultimate test and am hoping for the best! Luckily we have our own business and were able to set up an account with them directly! There is no one wear we live (out in the boonies) who carries them, nor is there anyone online - yet!

At 1:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The previous poster has no idea what is going on. More likely perhaps Sapko has ended USA Works because they weren't Made in USA and they got caught using prisoners to switch the labels:

"U.S. Customs investigates alleged "Made in U.S.A." label switching at local company" April 12, 2007 front page article Racine Journal Times http://www.journaltimes.com/nucleus/index.php?itemid=12148

"Insurer sues Sapko, alleges it padded claim after fire" April 25, 2007 Racine Journal Times http://www.journaltimes.com/nucleus/index.php?itemid=12495

Don't believe anything Sapko tells you. Do your own research.

At 9:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

U.S. Customs investigates alleged "Made in U.S.A." label switching at local company

MOUNT PLEASANT — Sapko International is being investigated by the U.S. Customs agency for allegedly removing foreign labels from denim jeans and replacing them with “Made in U.S.A.” labels.

The label-switching investigation involved a recent visit by Customs which included seizure of some of the clothing and labels allegedly involved.

“They’re questioning some of our labeling practices,” Sapko President and owner Al Sapko said Wednesday.
Sapko International, based at 3535 Oakes Road, sells under various labels; this allegation pertains to the USA Works line of jeans.

Sapko said that he did not personally know of any label switching. If true, it would be a criminal violation of the federal Marking of Imported Articles and Containers law.

“Customs came in to investigate the practices that we are conducting,” Sapko said, adding that some clothing is “on hold” by Customs.

According to some accounts, Customs officials “raided” Sapko recently and then came back the next day, confiscating discarded labels that had been snipped out of foreign-made clothing.

Sapko said the label switching, if it occurred, took place at a “remote” facility from the headquarters building.

“We haven’t come to a conclusion yet,” he said.

But Kevin Wilke, a prisoner at Kenosha Correctional Center, said there is no doubt the label removal was going on for an extended time at Sapko — and that Alan Sapko knew about it. Sapko International used many prisoners, both from KCC and women prisoners from Ellsworth Correctional Center in the Town of Dover.

“That’s all (the women prisoners) did,” Wilke said. “He had about five of them doing it.”

The “Made in Bangladesh” tags would be removed from the jeans here and sent to another Sapko facility to have the “Made in USA” tags sewn in, he said.

Wilke continued, “(Sapko) would actually come and inspect it and tell everyone how good a job they were doing.” Sapko’s office was nearby and, “He was always walking through.”

“He had a special Dumpster just for tags,” Wilke added.

He said at Sapko, the clothing was also removed from boxes identifying the source as Bangladesh. The boxes would be discarded, and the jeans would be put into new boxes that had no country of origin markings.

“It was going smooth for him,” said Wilke, who said he is originally from Milwaukee and serving time for armed robbery.

Calling Customs

Wilke, who began working at Sapko Nov. 29, said he is the one who blew the whistle about the alleged scam. “I just called Customs,” he said. “I knew it was a Customs violation.”

He said Sapko got wind of that and laid off everyone involved including Wilke — after telling Wilke he would match what the Customs department will pay him for testifying. Wilke spurned the offer, largely because he said the workers were poorly treated.

As for why Sapko used so much prison labor, Wilke said, “He knew he could control them, and he had an unlimited supply of them.”

John Christman of Union Grove, who was Sapko’s tire division manager until Alan Sapko fired him in November, confirmed the accounts about prison labor. “They were delivered every morning and picked up every night,” he said. “They were never late.”

Christman, who worked for the company for 2 [1/2] years, said Sapko took advantage of new hires in his tire-mounting department by hiring them at $7 per hour with a promise of a raise in 30 or 60 days. But the raises never came. “I’d say 90 to 95 percent of them never got that,” he said.

“In two years, I quit counting at 60 employees” who had been dismissed or quit over that issue.

Christman said he often tried to get Sapko to follow through with raises, to stabilize the work force. He believes that is why Sapko one day fired him, without explanation. Christman is still on unemployment compensation.

Besides selling clothing, the privately owned company does freight and cargo trucking.

In another matter involving Alan Sapko, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue on Tuesday filed a warrant against him for delinquent taxes of $162,707.88.

According to electronic court records, the warrant is based on initial unpaid taxes by Sapko, 52, of $67,107. A $26,339.28 penalty and $69,261.50 in interest raised that total to the warrant amount.

In 1999 the state filed a similar warrant for delinquent taxes against Sapko for $4,246.62, according to electronic court records. That warrant has since been paid.

If you've got more information regarding Sapko, please contact reporter Mick Burke at 262-631-1716 or mburke@journaltimes.com.


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