Every day students at GW are challenged to think critically about their coursework and to challenge their professors by providing dissenting views on myriad subjects. In that spirit, I would like to challenge the students at GW to take the same critical approach to recent accusations about New Era Cap Company.
According to some reports, New Era has been accused of being a “union buster” and “abusing workers’ rights.” As president of New Era, I feel you should know the whole story so that you can make up your own minds.
I will tell you that New Era is definitely not abusing workers’ rights, that we are not a “union buster” and that we provide good jobs with good pay in a clean and healthy environment. But allow me to support those statements with some evidence.
New Era is widely recognized as one of the most innovative companies in the apparel industry, having spent $1 million over the past three years designing and building equipment that reduces the amount of repetition inherent in sewing tasks. We have put this equipment in all of our facilities. We take our workers’ health seriously. We have a comprehensive health and safety program in place at all facilities where workers are included in the decision-making process.
As for wages and benefits, we pay our workers some of the highest wages in the apparel industry and far more than workers make overseas. We also offer a comprehensive benefit package, including high quality health insurance and an employer-matched 401(k) program. Make no mistake, sewing ball caps is a tough job that requires skill and good hand-eye coordination. There are always things that can, and should, be done to make the job more comfortable and safer. New Era has made considerable progress in this area, and we have invited the Worker Rights’ Consortium to our facility in an effort to have a constructive dialogue. We are also the very last company to make 90 percent of the caps we sell in the United States, the last major cap maker able to label the vast majority of its merchandise “Made in U.S.A.”
New Era is also being struck by one of its unions, the Communications Workers of America, over wage issues. As for the label of “union-busters,” New Era has had more than 35 negotiating sessions with the CWA, with another one scheduled next week. We have been represented by unions for over 30 years. In fact, we recently signed a contract with our other union in Buffalo, N.Y., which has not respected the CWA picket line. We fully believe in the bargaining process and for our employees to choose who they want to represent them. We have demonstrated our commitment to finding a settlement to the strike at the bargaining table.
Unfortunately, the union has chosen a different path through a campaign of untruths, misinformation and exaggerations that has made its way into reports, press releases and newspapers. New Era has opened its doors to the Fair Labor Association, allowing their independent auditors in our facilities to satisfy themselves that we have good working conditions.
Can we do things better? You bet we can. Are there areas for improvement? What business can’t improve?
We will constantly strive to make things better. But we will not stand by and let others mislabel this company.
-The writer is president of New Era Cap Company.
This article appeared in the April 15, 2002 issue of the Hatchet.