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Union: Many options to keeping New Era Cap plant open

The union representing workers at New Era Cap's plant in Derby says if the company can't make money running it, the union will find someone who can.

The cap company wants to close the plant and move major league baseball hat production to a non-union plant in Florida, as well as move the other production overseas. However, the company hasn't yet given the required 60-day notice of the plant closing.

The union contract requires the company to provide the information on which it made the decision to close the plant. A request for that was filed Thursday. Communications Workers of America union official Ben Master said the union does not want the plant to close.

Credit New Era Cap
The statement issued by New Era Cap on Nov. 13.

"I don't think anybody wants New Era to close and we believe this is a profitable operation and we're looking to figure out a way to keep this plant open and keep those jobs in Western New York," Master said. "The company has a contractual obligation to bargain with us over any decision like this and the first step in the process is for us to obtain from them all the information that went into their decision."

Master said the union sees a variety of ways the plant might be kept open, from bringing in another firm to operate it to the union running it and selling to New Era. He said the workers know how to operate the plant, since they have been doing it for decades.

"Based on that information, obviously we don't want to prejudge, but we do strongly believe that this is a plant that is making money and that if they don't want to run it, we'll find a third-party investor or let the workers turn it into a co-op or establish an Employee Stock Ownership Plan or something," he said. "We'll explore any possibility to try to keep that plant open."

Master said it can be done.

"It seems to us that, really, New Era just doesn't want to be involved in the manufacturing business," Master said. "Okay, fine. Let's figure out if there is a way to keep the plant open and run it under contract with them and they can still put the New Era label on it and we can be a subcontractor and let's figure out if there's a way that we can keep these jobs there."

The Derby facility employs more than 200 people.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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