MLB uniforms union made
Workers United takes a look at the people behind your favorite Major League Baseball team uniforms
The Major League Baseball playoffs are in full swing and the World Series is fast approaching. It is a special time of year for baseball fans, and it is even more special for hundreds of Workers United union members in Easton, PA, because they make all of the uniforms for every team in the league.
The over 400 mostly female workers at VF Majestic are members of Workers United PA Joint Board, an affiliate of SEIU. Lynne Fox, who heads the 80,000-member national Workers United, as well as the Philadelphia Joint Board, points out what very few baseball fans may know: that their favorite baseball players "wear a union label to work."
"Major League Baseball is a national sport with a dedicated fan base. Yet, very few fans know that our Workers United members make the uniforms worn by their sports heroes," said Fox. "Our members make sure that every player participating in professional baseball wears a union label."
Fox noted that her union's members are the "new face of American manufacturing" and are leading the way in the revival of the country's industrial base.
"Lots of politicians running for office, and most of the media covering them, think that American manufacturing is just about steel and auto manufacturing. But our union's diverse membership is actually the new face of American manufacturing," said Fox. "We have worked hard over many years with our unionized employers to find a way to preserve and grow the apparel making business that served as a path to the middle class for so many workers. Examples like VF Majestic show that investing in workers and manufacturing here in the United States can be successful."
Regarding the recent announcement that MLB would be contracting with Under Armour to produce their uniforms, starting with the 2020 season, Workers United Executive Vice President and PA Joint Board Manager David Melman said: "We are determined to fight to retain these jobs in Pennsylvania, no matter who the license holder is." VF Majestic will continue to manufacture MLB uniforms at the Easton, PA, plant through 2019.
A recent example of the value of having a highly trained and motivated union workforce was on display when the team at VF Majestic completed a rush order for jerseys for the Miami Marlins team, to commemorate the tragic death of one of their star players, José Fernandez, who was killed in a boating accident last month.
Melman said that the League called the management at VF Majestic on the Saturday that Fernandez died; and, by game time the following Monday, every Marlins player was wearing a jersey with Fernandez's name and number on it.
"They could not have done it unless our members stepped up," said Melman.
One of those Workers United, PA Joint Board, union members was Shirley Nevana, a ten-year employee who reported to work at 6:30 am that Monday to set up the machines needed to get the job done.
"I didn't even know he had passed away until I got to work," said Nevana. "It was sad, but we knew it was important for the fans to honor this player. So, three of us on the line got to work and finished the job of labeling and numbering about 100 jerseys in less than three hours."
The work schedule at VF Majestic is not always driven by emergency orders like the Fernandez project. Most union members work all year making the three to five sets of custom uniforms used by each player, as well as the official team jerseys sold to fans around the league. The busiest time of year is the early spring, from before spring training until opening day, when players are trying out and are being traded between teams.
Celebrities and others who are tapped by different teams to throw out the first pitch in each game also receive a custom made jersey with their name on it. VF Majestic workers have even made custom jerseys for Presidents Bush and Obama, among others.
One of the most senior union members working on the sewing line is Diane Honey, who has worked at VF Majestic for a total of 62 years; she left to have her children and has been back on the job for the last 46 years. The spry 86-year-old attributed her longevity on the job to the fact that she "just enjoys sewing so much." She also noted that she was trained in all the different jobs performed at the plant, so she could fit in anywhere on the line.
The pride in work exhibited by these union members included Lucilla Silva, who now specializes in making custom pants for MLB players' uniforms for VF Majestic, after putting in 10 years at another local manufacturer. She is seen here working on the uniform pants for Cincinnati Reds outfielder José Peraza, who wears #9.
"Hey José, I made your pants!" said Silva.
Fox said the dedication of unionized workers like the members at VF Majestic, and hundreds of other apparel workers in her union, shows that American manufacturing in the apparel industry, which has been declining for decades, can be revived if "policy makers put their faith in workers like these and stop making trade deals that drive good paying jobs to other countries"
"We need politicians to recognize that American manufacturing in the apparel industry is still here and hanging on," said Fox. "All we need is a renewed commitment to preserving and expanding this kind of American manufacturing, in order to revive the middle class."