WESTERLY — A union representing former employees of the Bradford Printing and Finishing plant is accusing its owner of unfair labor practices and pocketing health care deductions from employee paychecks.
Following a swell of public outrage due to the US Olympic committee’s decision to equip the US Olympic team with Chinese-made uniforms, the New England Joint Board is speaking out. Once the heart of the US textile and garment industries, a number of manufacturers still call New England home, manufacturing a variety of products for some of the most fashionable brands.
Warren Pepicelli, Manager of the UNITE HERE New England Joint Board expressed his dismay with the recent news.
“The fact that the US Olympic committee completely ruled out American workers is disturbing and should be to all Americans,” said Pepicelli. “The uniforms that our Olympians will be wearing could have easily been produced by loyal, highly-skilled, American workers right here in New England. Unfortunately we see a reluctance to admit that there are manufacturers still producing things in the US with fairly treated, middle class, union workers.”
Of the many factories where the New England Joint Board represents workers, the Southwick factory in Haverhill, Massachusetts makes tailored clothing for Brooks Brothers and dress uniforms for the US Navy. A workforce of nearly 300 manufactures the highest quality clothing for many high profile customers, one of the most notable being comedian and Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert.
The New England Shirt Company in Fall River, Massachusetts is another location where the New England Joint Board represents highly-skilled garment workers. New England Shirt Company manufactures some of the best quality sport and dress shirts. In the face of unbounded foreign competition New England Shirt has been able to continue its successful business of manufacturing clothing while maintaining a commitment to its almost 50 skilled garment workers. As founder Robert Kidder explains, “New England Shirt Company was started with the idea that the American product matters. If you give up on the American product you give up on the manufacturing jobs which sustain the American middle class.”
With its beginnings as a textile and garment workers’ union, the New England Joint Board has organized workers in new industries like food service and warehousing. With thousands of members across New England, the NEJB is one of the largest unions in the US representing garment, textile, manufacturing, laundry, warehousing, and food service workers.
This summer the New England Joint Board took part in UNITE HERE’s international “Organizing Beyond Barriers” (OBB) summer intern program. The program places young people with a UNITE HERE local or Joint Board for the entire summer doing work organizing new members, running strategic campaigns, and building our union. The NEJB had two recent college graduates; Daniel Hayes from the University of Connecticut and Benjamin Taylor from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Flora Perez a rank and file leave of absence organizer from NEJB Local 75 at Angelica Textiles.
Together the three summer organizers worked in Worcester, Massachusetts, where there is a large presence of NEJB members. The three organizers made weekly visits to NEJB Local 313 at the TJMaxx distribution center registering members to vote and helping prepare for upcoming contract negotiations. The summer organizers were also instrumental in starting new organizing drives in the city of Worcester that will eventually bring new members to our union. Summer organizers were aided by dozens of volunteer members from Local 313 and Local 75 in conducting house visits to our members in the city.
Through their hard work the NEJB has begun valuable relationships with like-minded organizations in the city working towards social and economic justice. These community relationships are important to have for when our union needs support during bitter contract negotiations. In addition to this work in Worcester the OBB organizers aided Local 151 at Madison Polymeric (Branford, CT) in a delegation to their boss, participated in political canvassing in South Boston and Dorchester for pro-labor candidates, stood in solidarity with striking union workers at a Coca-Cola plant in Hartford, CT, and visited many of our shops across New England. Overall, the program helped build the strength of our union and inspired many of our members to be more active politically, within their union and within their community. Thanks for your hard work Ben, Daniel, and Flora!
Recently the New England Joint Board has been very involved in a national campaign to call on the Marine Corps to refrain from using taxpayer money to sponsor the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The UFC has repeatedly tolerated jokes about rape, homophobic slurs, and remarks that are demeaning to women made by a number of its fighters and its president (see www.unfitforthecorps.org for examples). As a union representing a large number of military veterans with numerous factories working on defense industry contracts, we know the true values of the Marine Corps. Marines are trained to embody honor, loyalty, respect, and dignity. These proud values that we know and also cherish as union members are directly contradicted by the behavior tolerated by the UFC.
A number of our member veterans participated in a national day of action in Washington, DC where over 6,000 petitions were delivered to Marine Corps recruiting stations and the ceremonial barracks at 8th and I. Through these actions we stood in solidarity with our UNITE HERE brothers and sisters in Las Vegas who have been fighting for years to win union recognition at Las Vegas’s Stations Casinos. Stations is owned by the Fertitta brothers who also own the UFC. The Ferittas use much of the money made through the UFC to fight back the attempts by their employees to join UNITE HERE.”
See a press release here (http://unitehere.org/presscenter/release.php?ID=4625)