WASHINGTON — The House Subcommittee on Labor-Management Relations has set a July 21 hearing here to further probe the decision of the Leslie Fay Cos. to shut down its domestic factories in favor of offshore production.
The committee has made a special appeal to John J. Pomerantz, chairman and chief executive officer of Leslie Fay, to testify. As reported, Pomerantz declined to appear at the panel’s first hearing into the matter, held June 7 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., home of Leslie Fay’s production facilities.
A subcommittee staffer said Pomerantz expressed concern for his physical safety in Pennsylvania as one reason he did not want to attend the earlier hearing. The staffer said that Pomerantz had been assured that his safety would be guaranteed if he were to appear before the panel in Washington. Additional Capitol Hill police could be obtained to secure the hearing room, the staffer said, adding that they probably would not be needed.
A June 28 letter to Pomerantz from subcommittee chairman Pat Williams (D., Mont.) said, “This hearing will give you the opportunity you requested to discuss broadly the issues of global competition in the apparel industry and their impact on Leslie Fay.”
The shutdown of the firm’s United States production would eliminate 1,200 jobs and has been the major issue in the month-old strike against the company by the ILGWU.
In New York, a spokesman for Leslie Fay said the company was preparing a letter to Williams that will say the firm is focusing all its attentions on the negotiations with the ILGWU, and that it would like to “reserve the opportunity to respond” to the testimony request for another week or so.
Leslie Fay’s decision to move jobs abroad has incited the ire of the Pennsylvania delegation. Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D., Pa.), whose congressional district includes Wilkes-Barre, has been especially concerned about the job loss and plans to appear at the July hearing.
In a telephone interview Thursday, Kanjorski said he planned to ask Pomerantz why consumer prices of U.S.-made apparel are not much different from prices of imported items. Noting that most apparel manufacturers say they are moving offshore in search of lower wages to be more competitive, Kanjorski said, “It seems there must be an unusual profit being made if imported apparel is as expensive as that made in the U.S.”
He also said he wanted Pomerantz to discuss potential U.S. policy changes that could be made to encourage apparel firms to remain in the U.S.
It is uncertain whom besides Pomerantz will be asked to testify at the hearing. The subcommittee staffer said it was likely that workers from the Wilkes-Barre plant as well as apparel workers from Guatemala, where some sourcing is done by Leslie Fay, would be invited.
“The shape of the hearing depends on whether Pomerantz shows,” the staffer said. “We want to give him the opportunity he requested. We don’t think he will say no. In phone calls to me, he pleaded for the opportunity to testify in Washington.”