The University’s tenuous relationship with hatmaker New Era Cap Company is back on good terms – at least for now.
At a meeting of the University’s Advisory Committee on Labor Standards and Human Rights yesterday, committee chair Larry Root said the complaints of discrimination and anti-union practices made by workers at a New Era facility in Mobile, Ala. had been withdrawn after the Teamsters Union and New Era agreed last month to an employment contract for the factory’s workers.
“Right now there aren’t any complaints out there, so there’s no action for the committee to take,” Root said.
The contract will provide every worker at the Mobile facility with increased wages, improved health care and benefits, a facility grievance procedure and a non-discrimination policy approved by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, according to a statement from the Teamsters.
Workers who were laid off since the factory began trying to unionize seven months ago will be given the chance to return to their jobs at the factory, the statement said.
Jim Gookins, a Teamsters official at the union’s Mobile chapter, described the contract in a statement as a “historic agreement” between New Era and the union.
“This is a strong first contract, one that we can build upon in the future,” Gookins said. “I am proud of these workers.”
In a letter to university licensees last month, Tim Freer, New Era’s vice president of global human resources, said the contract was evidence of New Era’s commitment to “honoring workers’ rights to choose union representation.”
New Era is one of just five companies that can produce University headgear in certain styles, according to Kristen Ablauf, the University’s director of licensing.
She said New Era’s current five-year contract runs until June of 2012. The company will generate royalties for the University ranging from $65,000 to $96,000 over that span.
By settling on a contract, the Teamsters agreed to withdraw all complaints regarding New Era. The union also said it thinks New Era’s practices were in compliance with the codes of conduct set by the Fair Labor Association and the Worker Rights Consortium, according to a letter from James Hoffa, the union’s general president.
The University pays monthly dues to the FLA and WRC to submit reports to the University’s Advisory Committee regarding any labor or human rights violations committed by licensees.
The Teamsters also sent letters to the national chapter of the NAACP – which had reported cases of discrimination against minorities and females at the Mobile factory before the contract agreement – and the WRC, urging them to “cease all activities” relating to New Era.
Root said that the WRC indicated to the Advisory Committee that it would continue investigating earlier complaints of discrimination in pay, hiring and promotion decisions.
Before to the contract announcement, the committee sent a letter to New Era expressing concerns over allegations of discrimination and intimidation toward workers who wanted to form unions at the Mobile facility, the hatmaker’s main domestic and international distribution facility.