NEW YORK — The National Labor Relations Board has set May 30 as the date of an election to determine whether employees of a Perry Ellis International Inc. distribution center in Miami want to join UNITE, according to an official at the company and an union organizer.
This story first appeared in the May 14, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
That’s because the NLRB has ruled that a previous election, in which employees voted against the union by a margin of 55 to 49, was unfair because it found that Perry Ellis violated labor laws in the runup to the election. However, UNITE officials said they are advocating that a card-check process — in which a neutral third party counts the number of union cards signed to determine whether a majority of employees support the union — be used to ratify the union.
“A majority of workers have already spoken for the union by signing union cards back in February,” said Luke Brindle, a research analyst at UNITE. “Perry Ellis management has tainted the atmosphere. It’s really impossible for there to be a free election at this time.”
Tim Page, chief financial officer at Perry Ellis, said, “Our position on the union has been that our employees are certainly entitled to organize if they so desire and it’s a democratic process. We’d like the employees to have the opportunity to express their opinion.”
He claimed the union is “not really interested in having an election. They’re trying to force us to negotiate without an election.”
NLRB officials did not return phone calls by press time.
UNITE has successfully used the card-check procedure before, such as when it organized a Brylane distribution center in Indianapolis earlier this year.
A small group of UNITE activists took their campaign to the streets of Manhattan Monday night, where they held a brief demonstration in front of the International Center of Photography, where Perry Ellis and Vogue were holding a cocktail party honoring nominees for the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s fashion awards.
They held a mock awards ceremony on Sixth Avenue in which honorees played by UNITE staffers holding up large cardboard cutouts of their heads stomped on award cups after hearing allegations of worker mistreatment at Perry Ellis.
But the demonstration seemed to go largely unnoticed by attendees at the party, which was held in a gallery below street level. Downstairs, conversation focused on the late designer’s contribution to American fashion.
Zac Posen said he’d always admired the casual elegance of Ellis’ designs, adding, “he made some of the best American sportswear.”
Behnaz Sarafpour said Ellis designed “great clothes that have a combination of wit and functionality.”
Stan Herman praised his late friend for his influence in building the bridge sector into an important business. Herman said, “That’s a great place for young people to start because they can actually sell their product.”