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New Era reaches agreement with union to provide severance pay for Derby employees

DERBY, N.Y. (WIVB) - BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) An agreement was made with the union representing the 200 workers at the New Era plant in Derby, making sure they receive severance pay.

"You get to a point and you say, 'this is the best we're gonna do under this circumstance," said Debbie Hayes, Area Director of the Communications Workers of America, who was one of the negotiators who helped reach an agreeement with New Era Cap Company that will give the workers at the Derby plant one week of severance for each year that they're worked (up to 26 weeks of severance). The company has also agreed to continue paying what it has been paying toward their health insurance for up to five months after the plant shuts down in late March.

"We were hopeful that a company as profitable as New Era would've put a couple bucks more into this to make it what we would consider to be a good agreement," said Hayes. 

Here is New Era's statement:

"Over the last several weeks, New Era has been in negotiations with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and can now announce that we have reached a plant closing agreement with the CWA that includes comprehensive severance benefits for our employees in Derby.

This is an important step in New Era’s transition away from owning and operating manufacturing plants. The Derby plant closure will occur at the end of March.

We are very grateful to all our employees for their years of service. We recognize that this is a difficult time for them and New Era is continuing to work with the New York State Department of Labor and several regional companies to help secure employment opportunities for those affected by the Derby closure."

The average length of service for an employee at the Derby plant is 19 years. Some have worked there more than forty years. Others are refugees from Burma, Laos and Vietnam who now have to find a new job, according to Hayes. "They have handled this life-shattering circumstance as well as anybody could have expected."
Rev. Kirk Laubenstein, executive director for the Coaltion for Economic Justice isn't ready to give up the fight yet. He's planned another informational picket for this Friday at noon at the New Era headquarters on Delaware Avenue in Downtown Buffalo.

"We're hoping that Commissioner Manfred, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, will come to Buffalo and save this plant," said Laubenstein. "He did the same thing in eastern Pennsylvania at the Majestic plant."

New Era will continue to make hats worn by MLB players, but at a non-union facility in Florida. That work represented only about 2% of the production at the Derby facility. Most of the work that was done at the Derby plant will now be outsourced to a third party facility outside of the United States.

Despite this, the company is not planning to move its headquarters out of Buffalo, where more than 300 people are employed.

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