Southwick Workers Win Strong New Contract

After nearly 6 months of negotiating NEJB members at Southwick Clothing in Haverhill, MA have ratified a new contract providing strong wage increases and good benefits.

The nearly 400 skilled garment workers making high-end clothing for Brooks Brothers and other major retailers voted overwhelmingly to approve their new 3 year contract. After months of fighting, holding demonstrations, writing letters to the corporate office, and building the union stronger the workers were able to come away with a fair contract. Over the next three years health insurance costs will remain frozen with the same quality of coverage. The negotiating committee was able to win the union dental insurance costing only $2/week for the some of the best quality dental coverage. Workers were proud to win paid sick days and a $1/hr increase over the next three years. The mostly hotly contested issue in negotiations was focused on the defined benefit pension plan. The company, digging its heels in, fought tooth and nail to move to a 401K. The workers remained united and fought hard get the best retirement benefits possible. Ultimately the workers won a 401K plan where the company will pay $0.60/hr for every hour worked with a matching company contribution of $0.50 for every $1 contributed by an employee. In addition the workers won a dignity and respect agreement, and more time for stewards to investigate grievances.

“This is a significant victory for Southwick workers who are among some of the last garment workers in the region” said lead negotiator and Joint Board Manager Warren Pepicelli, “In an industry so decimated by imports and globalization, to be able to walk away from negotiations with such a strong contract is a remarkable accomplishment that couldn’t have happened without worker solidarity. Even in the face of unprecedented corporate arrogance, the workers, speaking a dozen languages and hailing from as many countries, stuck together and won justice.”

The New England Joint Board is a union representing about 8,000 workers in the textile, garment, manufacturing, warehousing, laundry, retail, food service, human services and non profit industries. The NEJB represents workers in the 6 New England states and New York.