Friday, February 29, 2008

A New Look for New Era Workers

I mentioned in class a few weeks ago that and the Teamsters were working on an agreement to better the working conditions, wages, and benefits for the New Era workers in Alabama. Well, I have great news- it's official, a "tentative" three-year contract has been made! It promises better wages, efficient health care, and a diversity policy which was encouraged by the NAACP. New Era has also promised to allow its workers to begin unionizing by continuing their efforts as members of the Teamsters Local 991, and New Era has agreed to let its employees collaborate with the Communications Workers of America. Let's hope that the workers can continue to make great strides for justice in the work place!

"We are pleased to have reached what we feel is a mutually beneficial agreement for both New Era and our workers...This contract solidifies what I hope will be a long-standing and positive relationship between New Era, the Teamsters Union and the NAACP who are all committed to producing a great American product that is part of our national pastime." -Christopher Koch, CEO of New Era.


Fitz said...

I think there are two issues that are interesting to me in this post. The first is that, for me, it is hard to believe that there are still places in America where people work full time and continue to live in poverty. The second is that I am encouraged that unions continue to have significant strategic influence. In a time where membership is steadily declining, and more and more manufacturing jobs, the core of union membership, are being lost or shipped overseas, I am glad unions are still having a positive impact. Situations like this are what unions were formed to deal with.

Rich Trent said...

The recent move by New Era to protect their workers is remarkable for many reasons. Firstly, New Era and Mr. Koch (CEO) probably understand how providing workers with decent wages and health care are basic human rights provisions and things to which all human beings are entitled.

Furthermore, the company's decision could be the impetus for change within many different businesses where workers are not being treated fairly. This is because it may actually be profitable for these companies to make things better for their workers. Numerous studies have been conducted that show a positive relationship between the happiness and satisfaction of a company's workers and productivity (or the quality of the product produced). Therefore, many companies might stand to profit from providing their workers with health care and decent wages. In addition to this, many consumers are beginning to seek out products made in safe and healthy environments. The niche market is growing, companies can make a great deal of money from changing inhumane operating procedures and protocol.

I would like to hope that more than economic logic, the higher-ups at New Era are using moral logic to deal with this situation. Koch says that New Era wanted to do whatever they could to help out in order to preserve an American pastime. Indeed, New Era caps are the official cap of the Major League Baseball association. Hopefully, Koch saw that it was morally irresponsible to have the symbol of a beautiful aspect of American culture tainted by a desire for profit and a profligate disregard for American life.

I am honestly an truly happy that these dealings did not degenerate into violent conflict. I only hope that these events are the first in a long series of similar events.

Ellie said...

I was so happy to hear about the results of this effort. My interview with Hilary Shelton was right after the NAACP, the Teamsters, and the other groups involved got this amazing victory, and I could tell that he was incredibly enthusiastic about this as well. I can only hope this is a symbol of things to come and not the end. Fitz mentioned his frstration that "there are still places in America where people work full time and continue to live in poverty," but I would argue that everywhere in America, in every single city, there are people working full time and living in poverty. It's not an issue of north vs. south or urban vs. rural, because there are countless jobs in this country that simply do not provide a living wage. I hope that we can use this case as an example of why a living wage must be established for every job.

Brittney said...

I definitely agree with Ellie's statement about this being the beginning of things. There are many people all over the States struggling to make a meager amount of money to support themselves and their families. This past spring break I was able to work with labor unions and workers facing stressful labor conditions in DC, and it was absolutely empowering to protest alongside them. Solidarity with workers is key because a strong coalition can accomplish the unimaginable. The Living Wage Campaign at Georgetown serves as an example of this. Continuing to win battles like New Era requires that we view workers issues as our own-not as something that doesn't affect us. During that short week I embraced the fact that dignity is something that we all must strive to preserve.