HOEKSTRA ASKS CLAIBORNE, UNION TO PRODUCE INFO
Byline: Vicki M. Young
NEW YORK — Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R., Mich.) is tired of playing the waiting game.
Hoekstra, chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations that is working on a study of workplace issues, has requested directly from Liz Claiborne Inc. and the apparel workers’ union UNITE that certain documents be produced in connection with the issue of liquidated damages that is at the heart of their several disputes with Mademoiselle Knitwear Inc. Mademoiselle is a former contractor for Claiborne.
Earlier this month, as reported, Hoekstra, together with Rep. William Goodling (R., Pa.), chairman of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, made a second request to Manhattan Bankruptcy Judge Cornelius Blackshear for access to sealed documents in the Mademoiselle bankruptcy case before the judge.
Blackshear turned down Hoekstra’s initial request for the documents but said that he would reconsider the issue at the request of the full Education Committee. The renewed request was sent to the judge June 12, but he has yet to rule on it.
Therefore, according to a congressional source, the direct request to Claiborne and UNITE is an attempt to recreate the sealed evidence on file. The source also said the information is needed quickly because congressional investigators plan to schedule hearings on the issue next month.
Claiborne executives could not be reached for comment. UNITE, in a statement Friday, said, “The Bankruptcy Judge properly denied the records to Congressman Hoekstra.”
Beside requesting the documents centering on payments by Claiborne to UNITE and documents on Claiborne’s relationship with its former contractor, Hoekstra said in his letters to these organizations, dated Thursday, that the committee intends to privately interview officers from both Claiborne and UNITE.
Hoekstra said the committee is planning to interview the following UNITE officials on June 30: Jay Mazur, president; Bruce Raynor, executive vice president; David Melman, executive assistant to Mazur, and Edgar Romney, executive vice president for Local 23-25.
Also on the list is Eric Chaikin, who has served as outside counsel on union matters.
The committee is planning to interview Claiborne officials on July 1. They include Robert J. Zane, senior vice president for manufacturing and sourcing, and Roberta Karp, vice president and general counsel.
The practice of liquidated damages is a key element in the dispute between Mademoiselle on one side, and Claiborne and UNITE, on the other.
Liquidated damages, a long-standing provision in UNITE contracts, constitute a penalty paid when the unionized manufacturer turns to nonunion production.
Mademoiselle and some of its employees have charged in lawsuits that such damages paid by Claiborne to UNITE constituted bribes to set aside Claiborne’s obligation to provide work to the contractor.
Claiborne has countered that the payments were legal and had nothing to do with its relationship to Mademoiselle.