Naked City

Baseball Cap Boycott

Citing potential, across-the-board 30% wage cuts, unsafe working conditions, and union-busting tactics, the AFL-CIO has added official Major League Baseball cap manufacturers New Era Cap Co. to its "Don't Buy" list. Since July 16, members of the Communications Workers of America (Local 14177) who work at New Era's Derby, N.Y., plant have been on strike against the company, which also produces caps for several other professional and college sports and New York City's now-chic police and fire departments. The union, which has enjoyed support from the Major League Baseball Players Association, Jobs for Justice, and United Students Against Sweatshops, has filed a complaint against New Era with the National Labor Relations Board and hopes to spark an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (A company representative couldn't be reached for comment.)

Among Austin's major sports teams, minor leaguers the Round Rock Express sell styles made by New Era based on its relationship with MLB. "But we pretty much use all the major vendors," explained retailer Sue Denny, who added that the team charges $18 for adjustable caps and $22 for fitted ones. The Ice Bats charge $3 more for caps than the Express, but do not contract with New Era. Nor does Longhorns Ltd., seller of all things burnt orange and white. Longhorns buyer Chris Commins says his company used to carry one or two New Era hat designs for UT, but dropped them because he believes the company's prices became too high. "I try to be price-conscious," Commins said. "Recently [New Era has] come down in their price on five or six designs, but to tell you the truth, I wasn't interested." Most Longhorns caps price in the $15-$18 range.

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