Begich: Xtratufs Have Become Sort-of-tufs

Just about every politician champions God, motherhood and apple pie.

U.S. Senator Mark Begich is adding rubber boots to the list.

Begich, who’s touring Southeast Alaska, says he’s heard numerous complaints about Xtratufs since production moved to China. He says what he jokingly calls “Sort-of-tufs” leak and the soles separate after just a few weeks of wear.

“Oddly enough, when I landed here in Ketchikan, we were on the ferry coming over and a woman sitting across from us owns a store in Sitka and actually told us about a pile of these boots that she has to send back because they’ve fallen apart,” Begich says.

The senator sent a letter today to Honeywell Corporation, the New Jersey-based manufacturer of the popular boots. It protested the drop in quality and the loss of 250 to 300 jobs at the Illinois factory where Xtratufs used to be made.

Begich says his effort is similar to Congressional protests against American Olympic uniforms and Air Force gear made in China.

“When you think of things like Xtratufs or our military boots, these are pieces of equipment that take a lot of wear and tear. And there’s no better country that knows how to build things,” he says.

Begich says the Xtratuf manufacturer responded quickly and he hopes to talk to them soon.

An email from Honeywell spokesman Bruce Eric Anderson says the company has heard complaints about the boots’ quality. He says it’s “reviewed and strengthened our manufacturing processes to resolve the issues.”

Begich says he’ll continue trying to get Honeywell to return production to the United States.

“We’ve also said if there’s issues within the tax code preventing you from doing that or causing you … to move your plant overseas, let me know and let us work with you to solve that problem,” he says.

Honeywell spokesman Anderson says Xtratuf production moved to China to keep the company competitive in the global marketplace. He says the tax code is not the problem.

Xtratufs were first made by the tire company B.F. Goodrich. Honeywell bought the brand in 2008. Two years later, it announced plans to move manufacturing to China.

Begich, by the way, owns a pair of about six-year-old American-made boots. He says his wife has had her pair for about 20 years

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Ed Schoenfeld is Regional News Director for CoastAlaska, a consortium of public radio stations in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. He primarily covers Southeast Alaska regional topics, including the state ferry system, transboundary mining, the Tongass National Forest and Native corporations and issues. He has also worked as a manager, editor and reporter for the Juneau Empire newspaper and Juneau public radio station KTOO. He’s also reported for commercial station KINY in Juneau and public stations KPFA in Berkley, WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and WUHY in Philadelphia. He’s lived in Alaska since 1979 and is a contributor to Alaska Public Radio Network newscasts, the Northwest (Public Radio) News Network and National Native News. He is a board member of the Alaska Press Club. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Douglas.