Weiner Praises Haiti as a Business Location, UNITE HERE Calls the Comments ‘Unacceptable’

Anthony Weiner is drawing criticism from the influential union UNITE HERE over comments he made about outsourcing at a public forum in Brooklyn last Friday.

According to a transcript provided by a spokesman for the union, Weiner said, “[F]rankly there are some wage jobs that are better in some lower wage places.”  He then said he would prefer to see jobs go to Haiti rather than China because the U.S. should “support our friends than supporting someone that might not be.”

Weiner also said, according to the transcript, that he told a Disney executive to move its t-shirt production operations from China to Haiti because “you’ve got more diligent workers in Haiti, more disciplined workers, better workers, better skilled workers, more eager workers, the distance you have to ship them, would save you about 70 percent in shipping costs.”

In a press release, the president of the union, Bruce Raynor, called Weiner's comments “utter folly.”

“Congressman Weiner’s statement was irresponsible and unacceptable. A Congressman from New York ought to be fighting to bring and keep good jobs here in New York,” Raynor said.

Raynor also said, “Public officials should not be advocating that U.S. companies make products in a particular country unless that country has demonstrated that it is committed to fundamental respect for the rights of workers. The government of Haiti has shown no such commitment.”

Weiner's spokesman, John Collins, didn't dispute the accuracy of the transcript, but he did say, in an email, "Bruce Raynor wasn't at the forum. If he was, perhaps he'd be less inclined to lob brickbats about the Congressman's support for an enlightened and humane US policy towards Haiti."

Here's the transcript of Weiner's comments, as provided by Raynor's spokesman:

Question: What is the opportunity for local businesses in Haiti?

Weiner: Very good question. What is the opportunity for local businesses in Haiti? Well, I have to tell you something, right now if you are a local businessman and you are selling consumer goods, you are paying a lot more for them than you need to because many of them are being shipped to foreign countries. We may never be the United States of America- a garment manufacturing haven like we were in the 30s and 40s because frankly there are some wage jobs that are better in some lower wage places, not that we exploit them, but probably the cost of living in the United State makes those products a little high. Well if you are someone who is trying to sell produce, trying to sell consumer goods, trying to sell clothing, having your trading partner right off of our coasts essentially, who can be a place that we can form a relationship with that there are exporting, but also a place for future imports, but that took forever.

Question: So what is the status of trade in Haiti?

Weiner: Well here is where it is. We have a program called the “HOPE Program,” which basically says that for some products there will be no duties, and it is really just starting now. There was a big conference here in New York in fact, where a lot of companies, who said come to Haiti and start to do business there. They’re building factories, but not as many factories capacity as they would like, but they are building factories. You know I had a conversation with an executive at Disney, and I said all those shirts, all those Daffy Duck shirts, you can keep making them in China, you’ve got more diligent workers in Haiti, more disciplined workers, better workers, better skilled workers, more eager workers, the distance you have to ship them, would save you about 70% in shipping costs. Do the business in Haiti. And you will not only do well, you will do good. You’ll do well for yourself but you’ll also do some good. The benefit would be for everyone- and the program is working, now it’s working in baby steps. You know, we used to say they were forbade in the United States, well not like that, but you have a choice between ‘made in China’ and ‘made in Haiti.’ Choose the one that’s made in Haiti. I’d rather support our friends than supporting someone that might not be.