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New Era to eliminate over 200 union jobs at its on-field cap making factory

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New Era is the official manufacturer of baseball caps for Major League Baseball. They make both the on-field versions worn by big leaguers and the replica 59/50 models you, me and everyone else wears.

The replicas — which constitute over 90% of the caps it makes — are made by third party manufacturers in places such as China, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Haiti. Pursuant to New Era’s contract with Major League Baseball, however, the on-field caps are made in the USA. For the past several years they have been made at a factory in Derby, New York, which employs 219 union workers. Last fall they announced that they would close the Derby factory in March, eliminating the 219 jobs and moving them to a non-union, contracted manufacturing facility in Miami.

While the announcement was made in November, it was brought to our attention today by Nationals reliever Sen Doolittle, who tweeted about the factory closing today and announced a social media campaign protesting New Era’s decision, as described below.

Doolittle also tweeted about MLB’s history with unionized garment workers, including workers at a Majestic factory — which makes uniforms — a few years back. As Doolittle notes, MLB players, like the garment workers, are unionized, and is advocating a stand in solidarity with them.

UPDATE: New Era has released a statement regarding the closing, referencing an agreement it has reached with the union representing the Derby plant:

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.

Blue Jays release John Axford

John Axford
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The Blue Jays have released right-handed reliever John Axford from his minor league contract, per an announcement on Saturday. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi speculates that the move could provide an avenue for the club to rework Axford’s contract, but the Blue Jays have yet to confirm or deny the report.

Axford, 35, was dealt a blow on Thursday after getting diagnosed with a stress reaction in the olecranon bone of his right elbow. Elbow soreness dogged the right-hander through much of his time in camp, and although he was scheduled for a follow-up examination later this spring, a definite return date had not been established.

Prior to the diagnosis, Axford was tabbed for a setup role with the team in 2019. He pitched to mixed results in 2018 (thanks in part to a late-season fracture of his right fibula) with a 5.27 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 9.8 SO/9 through 54 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Now, however, it’s not certain that he’ll return to the mound this season in any capacity.

Axford isn’t the only reliever the Blue Jays have lost to injury lately, either, as right-handers Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris have been sidelined with right elbow inflammation and forearm fatigue, respectively. Per Davidi, the Blue Jays offered Norris a $100,000 retention bonus to prevent him from opting out of the minor league contract he signed in February.