“This Is Nothing More Than Union Busting” - Joined By Clergy & Elected Officials, WNY Labor Leaders ‘Pledge Effort’ To Keep 200 Good-Paying New Era Cap Manufacturing Jobs In The Town Of Derby
(BUFFALO, NEW YORK) – Saying New Era Cap Company’s recent announcement to close its Union-represented manufacturing plant in the Town of Derby and move it to a Non-Union operation in Miami was nothing more than “Union Busting,” dozens of area Labor Leaders were joined by area Clergy and Elected Officials late Monday (December 10th) to publicly commit to doing whatever it takes to keep 200 good-paying jobs right here in Western New York.
New Era - the world-renowned maker of professional sports caps - plans to shut down its Derby Plant in March (2019), which will result in the layoff of at least 200 Workers (both Union-represented and Non-Union). New Era’s announcement was delivered with no advance warning, those who spoke at the rally said, and was made just before the Thanksgiving weekend (Read WNYLaborToday.com’s November 13th Labor News Report, Headlined: The ‘Last’ Unionized New Era Cap Company Manufacturing Facility In The U.S. Will Close In March 2019, Impacting 192 CWA-Represented Workers Just South Of Buffalo).
Described as a “shameless act of betrayal and abandonment” on the part of New Era, the speakers said the plant closing “will be devastating not only for the Workers, but also for the town and surrounding businesses whose viability depends on the plant.”
But while it may be an uphill battle since it appears the company has already told Elected Officials that it has made its final decision, those in attendance pointed a finger directly at New Era ownership, saying Koch Family’s decision to close its Erie County plant – located just south of Buffalo, was nothing more than “Union Busting,” since New Era plans to move the operation to a Non-Union plant in Miami. Hat production will be moved to China, the company also said.
Western New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation (WNYALF) President Richard Lipsitz (pictured above at the podium) told those attending the rally that was held outside the front doors of New Era’s palatial Downtown Buffalo Headquarters: “This development exposes a ‘clear truism’ that New Era management ‘only cares about the maximization of profit.’ ‘It doesn’t give a damn about those employed at the plant and the community around it.’ ‘It also exposes the complete hollowness of the Trumpian (referring to Republican President Donald Trump) Economic Program.’ Private companies ‘left unfettered will always invest in the processes that will result in the most profit.’ ‘They always have, and because of the nature of our economic system, they always will.’ ‘If given the opportunity, this includes moving off shore.’ ‘Trump has made a promise to save jobs in America or by some form of magic to convince companies to manufacture products in the United States.’ ‘His words are empty, as this situation and the recent announcement of mass layoffs at GM (General Motors) proves.’ ‘Only a sustained campaign by Working People can address this fundamental problem’ of the economy. ‘We will not sit quietly and allow this event to pass without a struggle.’ The WNYALF does not consider the announcement of the closing as a done deal.’ ‘We stand ready to assist in any appropriate fashion the effort to save the jobs.’
Representatives from the following area Labor Unions voiced their support at the rally: The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU); Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA); the Communications Workers of America (CWA); the Ironworkers; the Painters; the Public Employees Federation (PEF); the Service Employees International Union (SEIU); the Teamsters; the United Steelworkers (USW); and the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW). John Mudie, President of the Buffalo AFL-CIO Central Labor Council and President of CWA Local 1122, was also in attendance, as was the Coalition for Economic Justice (CEJ) and its Executive Director Kirk Laubenstein, who spoke at the rally.
With a backdrop of Labor Representatives holding signs that read: Save The Jobs At New Era, and chanting: “What’s disgusting? Union Busting,” Charmaine Bowman (pictured above at the podium) - who serves as the Buffalo Chapter President of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), said: “(New Era’s) Florida Workers ‘will be paid less’ than the Workers here. ‘It’s just the rich getting richer on the backs of the Workers and we will stand with the Workers.’”
The Reverend George Nicholas (pictured above at the podium) - who serves as the Pastor at Buffalo’s Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church and is on the African-American Health Disparities Task Force and the Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable, also addressed those at the rally: “While there’s ‘been a lot of economic progress’ in Buffalo, ‘it’s all focused on the top and not’ on the Workers. ‘We want to make sure the wages of Workers grow.’ During this (Holiday) season, we think about Scrooge and ‘how he built his economic empire for himself.’ He ‘didn’t value’ his Workers. In this case (regarding the New Era Cap Workers), ‘it’s not just a Worker being hurt – it’s his or her whole family.’ This is a ‘very successful’ international business and its Workers ‘are a valuable asset.’ Labor, the clergy and our elected officials ‘understand the value’ of labor ‘and will come up with a plan to keep the plant open and fight to make sure those Workers keep their jobs.’”
Joined by Town of Derby Elected Officials, New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz (pictured above at the podium with Assemblyman Ryan to his right) both took turns speaking at the rally, and both underscored the fact that New Era has received $1.6 million in taxpayer subsidies over the course of time for its Derby manufacturing plant and its gleaming Downtown Headquarters.
“We’re ‘ready to fight for economic justice in our community,’” Ryan told those in attendance, holding up a New Era-made Buffalo Bills cap that also featured an American Flag sewn on its side. “When you see New Era Caps (worn by professional athletes), I tell people ‘it’s made in Buffalo.’ I’m ‘proud’ this hat ‘is made in the U.S.’ (Is New Era) ‘going to put a Chinese flag on this hat (in the future) or convince us that this hat is still made here in the U.S.?’ I have a ‘sensitivity’ when it comes to plant closings, like Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna. We all ‘work hard’ to bring jobs to Buffalo. ‘This is not the end.’”
County Executive Poloncarz acknowledged that he and Assemblyman Ryan had met with New Era Officials and have attempted to convince ownership that those who stitch a variety of professional sports team logos on the New Era hats at the Derby Plant are high-quality Employees. In addition, Poloncarz said both Erie County and its Industrial Development Agency have “pledged full support” in order to save their jobs.
“That’s ‘not the same’ overseas,” Poloncarz noted in regards to New Era’s caps being produced here in the United States as opposed to the company going offshore. “If they keep their production here, they can ‘grow and thrive.’ ‘Work with us and keep these jobs in Western New York.’ We’re ‘hopeful this will not be the end result.’”
However, WNYALF President Lipsitz interjected: “This is ‘not just about providing a company with more’ tax breaks. ‘This is about corporate responsibility to a community.’ Those Workers in Miami ‘won’t be making’ what these Union-represented Workers in Buffalo are making.”
In a released statement, the WNYALF said:
New Era likes to portray itself as a good corporate citizen. They have asked for and received subsidies from the State of New York and from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency for the Derby plant and for their Downtown Headquarters. The ECIDA subsidy on the Derby Plant expired on December 31st, 2016, and those on the headquarters are still in effect. The company also recently paid for the naming rights of the (National Football League’s Buffalo) Bills stadium, and as such, the name New Era adorns the outside of the place. Some thank you to the ordinary Workers of the plant and to the community around it!
When explaining the move, the company simply says it doesn’t want to be in the production business. It has never said it isn’t making money, it simply wants out of production.
Unfortunately for New Era, it has an agreement with Major League Baseball to produce hats for the players in an American plant. The Derby plant is represented by CWA 14177 and it has had a relationship with the company for over 20 years. The Workers make a living wage and have a benefits package that includes health care and company contributions to a 401(k)-retirement plan. To satisfy the baseball issue, caps will be produced in Florida at a plant without a Union, where the wages and benefits are considerably lower than those in Derby. It is a fact that companies can improve their profits by busting the Union and ending a Collective Bargaining Agreement. This is exactly what New Era proposes to do. Not only is this incredibly nasty, but the rest of the production currently being done at Derby will be moved to China, where the wages and benefits are even lower than at the Florida plant.
WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: Photos that appear with this Labor News Report are courtesy of Yves-Richard Blanc, who serves as Director of Marketing and Business Development at the reVive Spine Center here in Western New York.