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New Era Fights Discrimination Charges

New Era Cap Co. released a statement refuting allegations made by the Teamsters Union accusing the cap maker of discrimination against employees.

ATLANTA—New Era Cap Co. released a statement Tuesday refuting allegations made by the Teamsters Union on Saturday in several cities accusing the cap maker of discrimination against employees. Teamster members protested on Friday and Saturday last week at New Era Cap stores in Atlanta, New York City, and Buffalo in the U.S. and in London and Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The union said that black workers at the Mobile, Ala., plant with years of experience had been passed over for promotion in favor of white workers. It also said that all but one managerat the Mobile facility, out of a management administrative staff of more than 20, is white. 

The union also said that workers at New Era’s Jackson, Ala., facility have said that sweatshop-like conditions are prevalent there. 

New Era said that it had received two claims of racial discrimination prior to the Teamsters organizing the Mobile facility, both of which were found to be of no merit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. New Era said that most recent dates to 2005. The company has operated in Alabamafor nine years and has more than 900 employees in the state. 

New Era called on the Teamsters Union to focus on negotiations rather than “resorting to false and irresponsible allegations of racial discrimination. New Era does not and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind in its facilities,” a statement said. 

Tim Freer, vice-president of global human resources, said, “We take great pride in the work we do and in the people who perform this work. We will not stand for discrimination of any kind in our facilities.” 

New Era also said it is a Category A member of the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and sits on the FLA’s board of directors. The company said an unannounced, third-party audit was conducted at the Mobile facility in September and an FLA audit was held at the Jackson facility through an independent external auditor in July. Neither audit, which included confidential and independent interviews with workers, found discrimination, New Era said. 

The cap maker also rejected claims of anti-union sentiment, saying it has a strong relationship with the Communications Workers of America, which represents its manufacturing workforce in Derby, N.Y. The Teamsters represent workers who voted in July to join the union. 

Felicia Walker, a union activist and former New Era employee, said in a statement that protesters want New Era to reinstate the more than 20 workers, including herself, fired from the Mobile facility during the course of the union campaign.