NEW YORK — Only a handful of the nearly 700 Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union members locked out by 11 New Jersey dyeing and finishing firms returned to work last week, following a union plan to settle the long-pending dispute.
Kurt Edelman, a union organizer, said only about 20 have gone back to work, “with no more than two or three returning to any one plant.”
The remaining workers have been put on a “recall list” and will be called back “as the situation warrants,” said Bruce McMoran, a counsel for CP Associates, the management group representing 10 of the plants. One firm, Poughkeepsie Finishing, is independent.
As reported, the union a week ago said it would send its members back under terms proposed by management during contract talks in September. Once workers are back on the job, talks for a new contract would resume, according to the union plan.
Both sides said they have made minimal progress in talks during the past few weeks. The main obstacle continues to be replacement workers, hired by management during the course of the lockout.
In December, the plants rejected a proposal by State Labor Commissioner Raymond Bramucci, closing the doors to the union workers, who voted to accept the pact and end an eight-week strike. About 700 other workers returned to work at 10 other plants.
“This is an absolutely terrible decision for the industry, as well as for the workers,” Edelman said. “The quality and delivery have not been up to par with the plants using replacement workers, and the industry is going to suffer a terrible blow. The employers have chosen to reject our offer, which was made in good faith, and is thumbing their noses at us. It’s a terribly short-sighted decision.”
“We are taking people back, but there just aren’t a lot of openings right now,” said McMoran. “The union feels it is doing what is right, and so are we.”
No further negotiations have been scheduled.