DERBY, N.Y. (WKBW) — Sean Doolittle has never been to Derby, New York. Despite that, he has a strong connection to the people who live and work there.
That's because Doolittle is sporting a Derby made, New Era hat most days as a relief pitcher for the Washington Nationals.
"For a player, your hat is this sacred thing for a lot of guys" Doolittle said.
New Era is the official hat provider for the MLB. Earlier this week, Doolittle heard the news that the Derby New Era plant would be shutting down, leaving 216 union workers without jobs.
"Its forced us to reevaluate our position as a union that is visible."
Doolittle, a member of the MLBPA, is one of a few players who have been speaking out, using the hashtag #NewEraHatsOff.
MLB has an exclusive deal with New Era to make our on-field hats in the US. But now New Era is planning to close its factory in NY next month and eliminate 200 union jobs in favor of non-union (cheaper) labor. #NewEraHatsOff pic.twitter.com/V0G4vCLaud— Sean Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) February 18, 2019
Doolittle hopes that New Era will reconsider, something the MLBPA agreed with in a statement.
"The MLBPA urges New Era to reconsider its decision, which will cause economic harm not just to the dedicated workers who manufacture the caps and to their families, but also to the town of Derby, which has supported the company for nearly 60 years."
New Era is set to close their plant on March 29th. During this time, Doolittle wants the people of Derby to know that one of their most proud customers has their backs.
"Our players association, the guys in the major leagues are proud to stand with the people who have made our hats for over 50 years" Doolittle said.
In a statement, New Era reaffirmed that they would not be changing their minds regarding the plants.
"Going forward, New Era will continue U.S. production of the caps that Major League Baseball players wear on the field of play. This small amount of production will be done at New Era’s existing facility in Florida, where the Company has production for its 5th & Ocean label. Otherwise, the production currently done in Derby will be absorbed by our existing global supply network."
For the full statement, read below.
In November, New Era announced that it was planning to close its Derby, NY facility as part of the Company’s ongoing efforts to move away from owning and operating manufacturing plants. This was a very difficult decision given the Company’s longstanding commitment to the Derby community, which dates back to the 1960s. New Era decided to close the plant to more closely align its business model with its competitors in the global sports, lifestyle and apparel industry. New Era is one of the last companies in its industry to own and operate manufacturing plants. 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. In the weeks following the November announcement, New Era held extensive negotiations with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the union that represents the Derby employees. On February 6th, the Company reached a plant closing agreement with the CWA that includes comprehensive severance benefits for our employees. Some of these employees have now exercised their rights under the agreement and have already left the Company. New Era continues to work closely with the New York Department of Labor and more than two dozen companies in the Western New York area which have expressed strong interest in hiring the Derby employees impacted the closing. We are very grateful to our Derby employees for their years of service. We recognize that this is a difficult time for them and hope the agreement with the CWA will support them during this transition. Going forward, New Era will continue U.S. production of the caps that Major League Baseball players wear on the field of play. This small amount of production will be done at New Era’s existing facility in Florida, where the Company has production for its 5th & Ocean label. Otherwise, the production currently done in Derby will be absorbed by our existing global supply network. The Derby plant is set to close at the end of March.