Colleges Doff Caps; Baseball's Supplier Pressed over Labor Practices

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 5, 2002 | Go to article overview
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Colleges Doff Caps; Baseball's Supplier Pressed over Labor Practices


Byline: Carter Dougherty, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Major colleges around the country, including Georgetown and George Washington universities, are canceling contracts with professional baseball's exclusive supplier of caps in response to reports of unfair labor practices at its plants.

In addition, the AFL-CIO labor federation and its affiliated unions are leaning on Major League Baseball not to renew its contract with New Era Cap Co. of Derby, N.Y., when it expires next year, a potentially major blow to the company.

"Baseball is now in a position that they have to take the New Era issue very seriously," said Ed Feigan, strategic-campaigns coordinator for the AFL-CIO.

Tad Segal, a company spokesman, said the revocation of contracts with New Era, which is near Buffalo, will drive manufacturing overseas, away from the last major cap producer in the United States.

"The effect of this campaign is going to be to eliminate American jobs," he said.

The drive against New Era marks a bold challenge to the 82-year-old company, which produces the colorful, high-end baseball caps that are worn by all major- and minor-league players. Retailing for about $25, the hats provide about 45 percent of its revenue, the company has said.

New Era, which has supplied baseball caps to the majors since the 1930s, also sews them for National Football League teams. This week, it began offering a hat commemorating the University of Maryland's NCAA men's basketball championship.

The universities' pressure on the company came about through their involvement in the Washington-based Worker Rights Consortium. The consortium, an association of 95 colleges, investigates conditions at plants where university-licensed sporting goods are produced and determines whether the owners live up to a labor "code of conduct."

"Our leverage comes from the colleges and universities," said Executive Director Scott Nova.

Major Washington-area schools have used that leverage.

George Washington University bumped New Era from its list of approved vendors in February, a step Georgetown took in December.

"Your company has simply not addressed the serious questions raised by outside monitors and employees about your workplace conditions and practices," Daniel Porterfield, Georgetown vice president for communications and public affairs, wrote to New Era President Christopher Koch.

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