Byline: Joanna Ramey

WASHINGTON — First Lady Hillary Clinton is scheduled Wednesday to sew the first UNITE label into a garment during an appearance at Nicole Miller in New York’s garment district.
Clinton, however, isn’t expected to use the brief photo opportunity to lobby for Labor Secretary Robert Reich’s pet enforcement project: cajoling apparel makers and retailers to insure that the garments they deal in are made in legitimate sewing shops.
Although she champions the need for improved working conditions, the First Lady will likely leave the sweatshop beat to Reich, said Neel Latimore, her deputy press secretary. “It’s something that is obviously a concern of this administration,” he added, though.
Clinton’s appearance is designed to evoke the efforts on behalf of American workers by her much-admired predecessor, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who in 1933 sewed the first union label in a garment as part of the National Recovery Act.
The new UNITE label will replace the ILGWU and Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Worker Union labels now sewn into union garments. UNITE was formed in July by a merger of the two unions.
While a specific garment hasn’t been picked yet for the sewing ceremony, it will be one of the prototype, brightly colored, woven dresses now being sewn for the upcoming Fashion Week shows in New York, said Bud Konheim, Nicole Miller chief executive officer. Clinton will use a Singer machine.
UNITE officials picked Nicole Miller as an example of a model apparel manufacturer. In addition to paying competitive wages, the sportswear maker provides its 75 workers with a free gourmet lunch, an exercise facility and laundry service.
The privately held company, with sales of more than $60 million, is also a member of Reich’s elite cadre of Trendsetters, a designation the secretary has given apparel manufacturers and retailers that have monitoring programs for their sewing contractors.

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