The Communications Workers of America announced plans today to explore alternatives to New Era Cap’s decision to shut its manufacturing plant in Derby, where on-field caps for Major League Baseball are currently produced. The company has announced its intention to shut the plant no later than February, eliminating nearly 200 union jobs.

The first step will be to invoke contract language that requires New Era to bargain over any decision to close the plant and expand outsourcing. The language requires management to present the union with the details and the reasons for the determination” to shift production out of Derby, and provides the Union with the “opportunity to propose changes in methods of production, operations or cost structure” that would eliminate the need for outsourcing. The union will seek detailed information from the company on costs of  production, profit and loss information on various product lines including on-field hats, projected cost savings from the decision to outsource, etc.

“This is a profitable plant and if New Era has decided to get out of the manufacturing business, we’ll find someone else to run this plant, keep the jobs in Western New York, and fulfill the company’s commitment to Major League Baseball to manufacture these hats in the United States,” said Dennis Trainor,

Vice President for CWA District One. “We will leave no stone unturned in our effort to save the jobs of these 200 workers.”

Once the company has provided the union with the requisite information, the union will open discussions with alternative operators, potential third-party investors, and with consultants familiar with worker buyout or Employee Stock Ownership Plan buyouts.

“This is not a done deal,” Trainor said. “Our members have sunk their hearts and souls into this plant.

They know what it takes to run the plant. We believe it can be profitably run as a subcontractor to New Era if management is no longer interested in day to day operation of the plant.”

Due to restrictive contract language that was part of the settlement of a nearly year-long strike against New Era in 2002, CWA will not wage a public pressure campaign against the company over the closing. It is our hope that constructive dialogue with management can lead to a better solution for the workers at New Era and the Western New York community.