HILLARY NEEDLES SA, SEW TO SPEAK
Byline: Dianne M. Pogoda
NEW YORK — The First Lady came to Seventh Avenue Wednesday to sew in the First Label.
Hillary Rodham Clinton stitched the first UNITE label into a garment, commemorating the merger of the ILGWU and ACTWU unions last year into the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees.
Seated in the sample room of Nicole Miller, at 525 Seventh Ave., in front of a bright red UNITE banner and two of the designer’s evening dresses, Clinton stitched the label into a black and white floral print silk organza jacket using a high-speed Juki sewing machine. She was flanked by two union employees of Nicole Miller and assisted by the UNITE shop steward, Suzy Freites, a sample maker at the apparel firm.
Clinton had a few practice runs with a similar unit in a back room before going public with the needle.
Within a few seconds, the label was sewn in and she finished with a flourish, snipping the loose threads with a scissor. Jay Mazur, president of UNITE, brandished the jacket and said it would go in the union’s archives.
Mazur noted that in 1933, when Eleanor Roosevelt was first lady, she sewed in the first union label.
Responding to reporters’ questions, Clinton said, “American fashion is one of the leading economic industries in our country, and we’re very proud of that. It’s not only relevant, it’s very important, and it needs to be supported. I’m very pleased about this new union and the relationship that it will have with the manufacturers.”
Clinton also took the opportunity to plug the administration’s pro-NAFTA stance. Asked to defend the President’s position in light of organized labor’s anti-NAFTA posture, she said, “I think everyone is in favor of free and fair trade. I think that NAFTA is proving its worth, and the American worker — these women you see here — are as good as any workers in the world, and if allowed to compete fairly, they will outdistance any competition, and that’s what free and open and fair trade like NAFTA is all about.”
Prior to Clinton’s appearance, Mazur didn’t sound particularly isolationist.
“We think we should have trade laws where we trade with the rest of the world on a fairer basis, where we share our markets more fairly and on an equal playing field,” he said. “We should be dealing with the enforcement of labor laws, minimum wage, OSHA and all the standards that protect workers’ earnings and security.”
As she was leaving the sample room, Clinton, wearing a navy suit with a black velvet mandarin collar, buttons and trim, was asked whose suit it was.
“It is a union-made suit,” she said. Asked who made it, she paused and replied, “I think it’s a Gillian.”
Gillian went out of business just over a year ago.