In Olive Hill, Ky., apparel factory Ashland Sales and Service, Co. has been making windbreakers for the Air Force for 14 years, says Michael Mansh, who runs the factory.
Last February, when Mansh learned that Unicor — a government-run enterprise that employs prisoners at wages as low as 23 cents an hour — was eyeing the contract, he reached out to Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell.
McConnell, one of the top Republicans on Capitol Hill, issued a public statement urging Unicor to back off. The next day, it did.
With 100 employees, Mansh said Ashland is Olive Hill’s largest employer. And he said losing the Air Force contract would have shut the factory down.
“That’s 100 people buying groceries. We use trucking companies in the town, buy parts and light bulbs there every day,” he said. “That’s all lost when prisons take away contracts.”