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New Era Cap Accused of Sweatshop Conditions, Racial Discrimination, Union Busting

by: mooncat

Tue Nov 27, 2007 at 11:55:00 AM CST

If you care about worker's rights, check the manufacturer on that ball cap before you buy it, because it looks like all is not well at the New Era Cap facility in Mobile, Alabama:

A New Era Cap Company facility that distributes hats with University trademarks is under investigation by a national labor rights group for allegedly racially discriminating against workers in pay, hiring and promotion decisions.

The Worker Rights Consortium, a Washington, D.C.-based labor monitoring group, said in a statement last week that it would proceed with "a full factory assessment" of the distribution facility in Mobile, Ala. after black employees reported discriminatory wage and hiring practices.

Workers at the plant voted to join the Teamsters last July and are still negotiating a contract.  New Era announced a 35 person layoff, just in time for Thanksgiving and workers smell retaliation against pro-union employees.

“These layoffs are another shameful tactic by New Era to scare and punish workers for seeking fair pay and a fair chance to move ahead without being hobbled by racial discrimination,” Hoffa said. “Clearly New Era has no commitment to negotiating a fair contract. The company continues to try to exploit and intimidate workers. Now they’re taking money out of workers’ pockets at the holiday season. It doesn’t get any meaner or greedier than this.”

New Era denies the discrimination claims, saying they are a member of the Fair Labor Association, which requires "a stringent code of conduct that includes providing a workplace free of discrimination of any kind."  Of course, Tim Freer, New Era's vice president of global human resources, sits on the Fair Labor Association's board, but New Era doesn't see that as a conflict of interest.  No. Certainly not.

The lack of black supervisors certainly raises questions as to whether promotions at New Era are really equal opportunity. 

Black workers at the Mobile plant with years of experience have been passed over for promotion in favor of white workers. All but one manager at the Mobile plant, out of a management/administrative staff of more than 20, is white.

"When workers wanted to address this discrimination by forming a union, New Era management used every means in its power to bully them out of a free choice. Management ran a systematic intimidation campaign. They even told workers that workers would jeopardize their food stamps by voting for a union.

I find the idea that New Era pays so little that their workers qualify for food stamps almost as disturbing as the charges of racial discrimination.  What kind of a job doesn't pay enough to keep you off food stamps?  New Era Cap also has a plant at Jackson, Alabama and conditions there don't sound any better than at Mobile.  

mooncat :: New Era Cap Accused of Sweatshop Conditions, Racial Discrimination, Union Busting
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Interesting (4.00 / 1)

I got an e-mail a couple of days ago regarding this and started to pass it on, but a link to the union site had been pulled down so I did not know if it was still valid.

 The most disturbing thing in your post is the idea that an employed worker, no matter the industry, might require food stamps in order for the family to have food on the table and don't even get me started on the slave wages paid to the employees of big-box stores (think the Wal-Mart)!

 My fear for my children and grandchildren increases with each passing day!

Will your kids and grandkids have a better life than you had? (0.00 / 0)
Increasingly, the answer appears to be no.  Why don't we value the work of our neighbors in cap factories or sock factories?  Shouldn't the folks who work 40 hours a week there at least make enough to avoid being on food stamps?  Where are our priorities, anyway?

Work harder and work smarter!

[ Parent ]
Food stamps so that people with jobs can feed thier families (4.00 / 1)

In a country where food commodity prices are so low that farmers can barely break even.  Yet, somehow,  Cargill, ADM, ConAgra, and Tyson prosper.   

There are so many things wrong with this picture, it defies explanation.

I need to re-read Collapse, by Jared Diamond, to see how our civilization correlates with the Greenland Norse, the Easter Islanders,  the Anasazi of the American Southwest, and other famous dead-enders.  You do, too.

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
- John Adams

[ Parent ]
Collapse was a major downer (0.00 / 0)
I heard a report today on climate change.  Contrary to the "well, it would be nice if New York was warmer" dittoheads, it's starting to look like dry places are going to get drier, wet places are going to get wetter and hot places are going to get even hotter.  In other words, there isn't much silver lining to global warming.  Look for more water shortages, unless you are getting flooded.  Real downer.

Work harder and work smarter!

[ Parent ]
Thanks for that link (0.00 / 0)

For a household size of 1:

Gross monthly income (130 percent of poverty)    $1,107

Net monthly income (100 percent of poverty)    $ 851

Work harder and work smarter!

[ Parent ]
New Era in Jackson (4.00 / 1)
I am a City Councilman in Jackson Alabama and I asked for a tour of the New Era factory on our town this past week. The company complied with my request. I did not find sweat shop conditions, infact I found a clean, well lit plant with nice employee breakrooms and restrooms. I know many of the workers on a personal level and I have not had 1 of them voice any concern about mistreatment or prejudice within their company. I am a Union member myself so I understand and appreciate the importance of a Union workplace. I also understand the importance of accurate unbiased information and I think that the Teamsters are going about unionizing these facilities in unprofessional manner. I suggested that the Local chapter of the NAACP be allowed to tour the Jackson factory along with the local press and plant management indicated that they would welcome both parties. Let's not forget the ultimate goal is for the company to make a profit and the employees to earn a living.

Mr. Manofthepeople, (4.00 / 2)
Was your tour announced?  Were you allowed to pick the people you spoke with at random or where they chosen for you?  Were the employers present when you spoke with employees?  

The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die.~Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D. MA)

[ Parent ]
New Era in Jackson (4.00 / 1)
The tour was announced. I was able to talk to any employee without plant supervision present. I know many of the employees on a personal level. I have lived in Jackson my entire life and I have been representing our people on the City Council for the past 7 1/2 years. My father, mother, wife, grandmother, and other relatives worked in this very factory when Vanity Fair owned it and I can tell you from personal experience that the working conditions now under New Era are 100% better than when Vanity Fair owned the plant. There are two concerns here: 1. The issue of whether or not to Unionize the New Era facilities and that is a company - labor decision that should be handled by those two parties and 2. The issue of racism and the so called sweatshops which is being advocated by outside groups that have not been in the facilities. The latter is the more dangerous to the company and it's employees because these type of alligations even though false could eventually end up costing people their jobs by causing the company to go out of business or moving their factories to foreign countries. The most important thing is that people need to use accurate information when disscussing issues.

[ Parent ]
In other words Manofthepeople, (3.00 / 1)
The workers should just shut up and be glad they have a job.

The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die.~Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D. MA)

[ Parent ]
Wages at New Era (3.00 / 1)
That is not what I am saying. I am a member of the United Steelworkers Union and I believe that labor and management should come to the bargaining table a bargain in good faith. The workers and management should handle this not outsiders who do not know the whole story.

[ Parent ]
"Outsiders"? (0.00 / 0)
In other words the workers should just shut up and let mangement decide what's best.

The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die.~Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D. MA)

[ Parent ]
Manofthepeople (4.00 / 1)

I would love to talk with you about the conditions you observed and what you hear from the workers.  My email is mooncat at leftinalabama dot com (or click on my name for a link.)

We all understand that the ultimate goal is for the company to make a profit and the employees to earn a living, but the company needs to make a reasonable profit and the employees should earn a reasonable living.  The need for food stamps makes us question the reasonable part of that equation, at present. 

Work harder and work smarter!

[ Parent ]



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