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New Era Cap pushes back closing date for Derby plant

New Era Cap has set a later closing date for its Derby plant than previously announced, but the company says the new date is a labor law technicality, rather than a change in plans.

In a revised filing with the state Labor Department, Buffalo-based New Era now declares the closing date for the Derby plant as June 7, instead of March 29, as the company announced last December.

But Paul Gallagher, a New Era spokesman, said the later date refers only to completing a final few orders past March 29, when most production will still end.

"Nothing really has changed," Gallagher said. "Eighty percent of the employees will be out of the plant by the end of the month as we always projected."

The closing will eliminate 216 jobs. New Era now says 24 of those jobs will be eliminated between May 24 and June 7.

New Era filed an updated notice with the state Labor Department to ensure it was meeting the requirements of state labor law, since some workers will still be on the job past March 29, Gallagher said. "It's a legal and labor law technicality."

Workers at the plant represented by the Communications Workers of America last month approved a severance agreement with the company.

New Era plans to shift production of its caps used on the field by Major League Baseball players to Florida, while also using suppliers based overseas, where wages are much lower, for baseball replica caps and other non-baseball products currently made in Derby.

"New Era is one of the last companies in its industry to own and operate manufacturing plants," the company said in a statement last month. "New Era’s decision to close the Derby plant is not about chasing lower, ‘non-union’ wages, as has been erroneously reported in the media. The decision reflects a fundamental shift in the company’s business model."

New Era’s agreement with Major League Baseball to provide all of the headwear that players wear on-field during games requires those caps to be made in the United States. Gallagher said less than 10 workers will be responsible for making those caps at the Florida operation.

"The volume of production that is going to the facility in Florida is less than 2 percent of the volume in Derby," Gallagher said. "It's just the caps for the players on the field. That's a very small amount of the volume in Derby."

The union representing Major League Baseball players has urged New Era to reconsider its plan to close the Derby factory. Before the union's statement came out, Washington Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle tweeted his support for the Derby workers, drawing more attention to the issue.

New Era will maintain its headquarters operations on Delaware Avenue.

 

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