Major League Baseball (MLB) has had a lucrative, exclusive contract with apparel manufacturer New Era for decades. Now, New Era is trying to bust its workers’ longstanding union.
While the official MLB caps New Era sells to fans are made overseas, caps worn on the field by MLB players must be made in America, and have been manufactured by a union shop in Derby, New York for 60 years. However, New Era has since announced a planned relocation of its hat manufacturing operations to Florida in March, meaning its 200 unionized workers at its New York facility would lose their jobs to non-union workers being paid lower wages.
The Buffalo News initially reported on the factory’s closure in November of 2018. 192 workers affiliated with Communications Workers of America (CWA) local affiliate 14177 stand to lose their jobs once the closure is made official.
“It’s just very devastating to the workers at the plant and in the community,” Buffalo-area CWA representative Erin Bowie told the Buffalo News. “We have a lot of people who have worked there: Long-term workers for over 40 years, families that work there, people who work there that that is the only job they’ve held.”
That didn’t sit well with Washington Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle, who is using his platform to draw attention to MLB’s exclusive on-field hat vendor attempting to bust its players’ union.
MLB has an exclusive deal with New Era to make our on-field hats in the US. But now New Era is planning to close its factory in NY next month and eliminate 200 union jobs in favor of non-union (cheaper) labor. #NewEraHatsOff pic.twitter.com/V0G4vCLaud
— Sean Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) February 18, 2019
Doolittle and his wife, Eireann Dolan, launched the #NewEraHatsOff campaign in response to the news of the union-busting effort, and tweeted an infographic telling their followers what was happening and what they can do about it.
“New Era is terminating 219 jobs in Western New York to save a little money on a tiny but important fraction of its business,” the infographic reads. “Its product will suffer, its contract with Major League Baseball may suffer, the Western New York community will definitely suffer.”
While the relocation is scheduled to take place fairly soon, ThinkProgress reported that there is past precedent in recent history for the MLB to change its mind after being pressured by players and fans. In 2017, the MLB reversed course on a plan to move its uniform production from Palmer Township, Pennsylvania, where approximately 600 unionized workers make the gear that players wear on the field.
“There is a glimmer of hope here,” Eireann Dolan told ThinkProgress. “Companies change their mind. It’s not over until it’s over.”
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.