On February 22, Ethix staff members Alayna and Amy had the opportunity to visit a long-time Ethix vendor, Unionwear, in Newark, New Jersey. The Unionwear sign is visible from the New Jersey light rail, and their manufacturing facility is a quick walk from the Bloomfield Avenue stop. Spaced across the large room were multiple car-length-sized machines supervised by employees well at work embroidering panels of hats and bags. In other facility areas, partially assembled hats and bags are at their stations awaiting the next addition, keeping the production line moving (rather quickly!).
While seeing deconstructed trucker hats without their bills and parts of military-issued medic bags could keep your attention, the calm, focused energy of the employees could not go without notice. The employees and how they are treated make Unionwear different from other hat and bag manufacturers. The number of USA-made products is limited, and when we seek out union-represented employees, the number of facilities becomes much smaller. Union representation matters because we cannot ignore the person behind your new bucket hat that advertises your choice of nonprofit organization or a canvas tote parading a political candidate’s catchy slogan. Stepping into Unionwear, we can see what union-made means for the people employed to make these products. It means wages and benefits negotiated by Workers United, a labor union representing over 85,000 employees in the textile and other industries. Low employment turnover rates and safe working conditions are among other attributes Unionwear offers.
The facility starts the process of cutting the material by hand and continuing through packing it up to ship out to the buyer. Keeping the entire operation in one facility also has significant environmental benefits. When we source our products overseas or ship the product from and to multiple facilities (all in the name of saving costs), the effects on the environment are the real cost. Creating more waste (usually single-use plastics used in shipping) in landfills and carbon emissions from transportation, using supply chains that don’t value the human cost, much less the environmental impact, only benefits the CEO’s pockets.
Colin Greene, Unionwear’s General Manager, shared that the next significant addition to the facility will be a cutting machine. This addition will cut (pun intended!) production times by days, allowing the products to get into customers’ hands sooner. Ethix staff looks forward to continuing visits to our trusted vendors, building stronger relationships with the workers, and sharing what we learn with our clients.
Are you looking for custom union made products for your organization? Unionwear is a great choice. Contact us for a quote today!