By Steve Berube, SVP, Global Distribution and Logistics
As the senior vice president of global distribution and logistics for Levi Strauss & Co., I've seen a lot of the world. My role with Levi Strauss & Co. has afforded me incredible opportunities to travel around the globe and learn more about the people, materials, processes, and culture behind our heritage brand. But in all my adventures in this role – from Mexico to Thailand – I had never been to our nation's capital, Washington, D.C. Until now.
In April, I joined a group of supply chain leaders from across the retail industry, which was organized by the U.S. Global Value Chain (USGVC) Coalition, to talk with members of Congress and their staffs. Why? To educate Congress about the impact of public policy on jobs like yours and mine. The USGVC is made up of organizations who share the goal of promoting the domestic economic growth our companies generate through our value chains.
As a global brand with a manufacturing, distribution, and retail presence throughout the United States, LS&Co. knows firsthand what the global value chain means here at home. So, as I walked into each representative's office, I did so with one message: U.S. trade policy impacts real American jobs and American investments.
LS&Co. supports thousands of jobs across this country. In my position managing global distribution and logistics, I oversee 1,200 jobs myself. These are competitive, good paying jobs with good benefits; and they exist largely because of our trading partnerships with other countries. From the fashion designer to the customs broker to the marketing pro and jobs like yours and mine, millions of Americans help bring a product to market. In fact, most of an apparel product's value – 70 percent – is added here in the United States, at the hands of American workers.
It's easy to see then how the slowing down of global trade has a direct effect on these jobs. That's why LS&Co., along with our fellow USGVC coalition members, share in the concern that current trade policy proposals may put those jobs in direct jeopardy. And it's why we're committed to advocating for them. Simply put, these jobs are worth protecting; not just for LS&Co. and our operations, but for the employees and communities that rely upon them.
In addition to protecting American jobs, we also want to ensure that our trade policies promote increased investments here at home. LS&Co. is proud to be making a $70 million investment in distribution centers across multiple states, which includes a $20 million steel purchase to refurbish our infrastructure. However, the Trump Administration's recent actions to imposed tariffs on steel imports raises some uncertainties around this would-be boost to the job market and economy in those communities. If the cost of these investments goes up, that has a ripple effect throughout the supply chain that could result in higher prices for consumers, and the stifling of future growth for the company and regions in which we operate. The recent proposal to impose a 25 percent tariff on Chinese imports could also have an impact on our business.
With this in mind, my message to policymakers during my first trip to Capitol Hill was simple: promote trade policies that support American jobs and economic growth here in the United States, not stifle them. As a representative of Levi Strauss & Co. – and the thousands of workers we employ – I ask that Congress listen to businesses, large and small, who are raising concerns over how tariffs and limits to free trade will affect our ability to deliver quality products at competitive prices to consumers.
As I reflect on my time in Washington, DC, I realized how important it is to talk about jobs like yours and mine. We're the packers and loaders and truck drivers. We're the workers who help bring products to our loyal customers. This visit was a great opportunity to talk about what we do and the role we play in our communities. Maybe we should all take a moment to share with our family, our friends, and our neighbors more about what we do and how we can make trade policy work for the jobs that are dependent upon it.
I invite you to give your members of Congress a call and let them know the economic value and job creation from global value chains that are built on international trade.