Making It in America - The Almost Impossible Quest to Manufacture in the U.S.A. (And How It Got That Way)
Meet Ben and Whitney Waxman, two tireless idealists attempting to do the impossible: produce an American-made, union-made, all American-sourced sweatshirt—an American hoodie.
Ben spent a decade organizing workers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin, fighting for Americans at a time when national support for unions had sunk to an all-time low. Struggling with depression and a drug dependency, Ben lands back in his hometown of Portland, Maine, desperate to prove that ethical manufacturing is possible. There, he meets Whitney, a bartender wrestling with her own complicated past. In each other they see a better future, a version of the American dream they can build together.
Making It in America is a deeply personal account of one couple’s quest to change the world. As they navigate private struggles, international trade wars, and a global pandemic, their story carries us across the nation and across time, from the cotton fields of Mississippi to New York City’s hollowed-out garment district to a family-owned zipper company in Los Angeles to the enormous knit-and-dye factories in North Carolina. Throughout, we grapple with what “Made in the USA” really means to Americans in the twenty-first century.
Making It in America also offers a unique look at global politics, economics, and labor through the story of textile manufacturing. It was the demand for cheap cloth that sparked the industrial revolution. It was the brutality of the textile industry that first drove workers to organize.
Making It in America reveals how profoundly manufacturing shapes all of us. Each twist and turn of the Waxmans’ quest tells us how we got here, where we are now, and where we’re headed—through the people that produce the fabric of our lives.
Excerpt from Robert F. Kennedy Remarks at University of Kansas
Even if we act to erase material poverty, there is another greater task, it is to confront the poverty of satisfaction - purpose and dignity - that afflicts us all.
Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product - if we judge the United States of America by that - that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.
Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.
If this is true here at home, so it is true elsewhere in world.