Ratification seals Demopolis New Era plant’s fate

Published 10:32 pm Tuesday, February 2, 2010

By a vote of 197-57, the tentative agreement between New Era Cap Company and the Communications Workers of America was ratified by the union’s members at New Era’s facility in Derby, N.Y. Both sides came to terms on a four-year contract on Tuesday evening.

“As a result of this ratification vote, New Era will move ahead with plans to retain the Derby plant as its sole U.S. manufacturing facility,” said a statement released by New Era Cap Co. “The company will begin meeting with CWA officials (on Wednesday) to discuss severance packages for the employees in the Demopolis, Ala., facility.”

The ratification solidifies New Era’s planned consolidation of its three plants into one facility, as the company announced last November. At that time, the company announced that it would close its plant in Jackson, Ala., by the end of this month.

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The Demopolis plant will be closed by the end of June. Demopolis plant manager Alvin Williams said that the procedure the plant will go through over the next few months will be difficult.

“We will be looking to start downsizing this facility,” he said. “Because of maintaining sales and inventories and supplying Major League Baseball and our customer base, it will be the middle of May before we close. But, little by little, after about four weeks, we will start to see a dwindling down of the schedule that we manufacture.”

Dave Palmer, the director for CWA District 1, which represents New England, New York and New Jersey, said that he believed the economy bolstered union members vote for the agreement.

“We bargained for three or four weeks, and it was some tough bargaining,” he said. “There were some big decisions to be made, and at the end of the day, I think it boiled down to the fact that, although you may have to take a step backwards to secure your employment, based on what’s out there right now.

“That’s what was so tough about the situation — it was the same situation in Derby and in Demopolis — that there is nothing out there right now. I think that was a big factor weighing on the employees’ minds here when it came time to vote, taking a step backwards in their contract for the sake of their jobs.

“There was some backtracking on the base rate,” he said. “They had a midyear bonus here that they did not have in Demopolis. That bonus up here was shaved down to next to nothing, and that was one of the big concessions for the membership up here. They’ve had that bonus here for about 20 years.”