Hats of Wrath

In Brief

Volume CVIII, No. 3March, 2008

Women are paid less than men.” “Blacks are paid less than whites.” When will we ever see these headlines go away? Hopefully, someday soon, but for the moment here’s the latest story — and it’s about hats.

New Era Caps is the maker of official headgear of major league baseball. The company also supplies hats for college sports teams. And the company has a music connection, too: it makes the must-have style of cap in the hip-hop world.

Many of the caps are made overseas. But the company does own a unionized plant in Buffalo where workers are represented by CWA. They also have other plants around the country, including a distribution center in Mobile, Alabama, where workers pack the hats into boxes to be shipped out.

In Mobile, cap workers asked to be represented by the Teamsters. They are now facing an anti-union campaign. New Era management even told workers that they could lose their food stamps if the union was voted in.

The Teamsters asked the NAACP to investigate the company. The NAACP found that women and blacks made less than their white, male counterparts.

“If you do a job well, you should be able to advance. If you’re black and work at New Era, you can’t,” one worker told the NAACP.

The situation isn’t just about pay and discrimination. It’s about respect. For instance, another worker told the NAACP, “I was pregnant at the time and feeling extremely tired. I asked my supervisor if I could sit down and he said, ‘If you go into labor we can just get someone to bring a bucket of water and some towels.’”

Local 802 members who want to learn more and also help are urged to visit