December 22, 2014
By Stephanie West
Boston, Massachusetts – After nearly 6 months of negotiating, New England Joint Board members of UNITE HERE at Southwick Clothing in Haverhill, north of Boston, have ratified a new contract.
Over the next three years, health insurance costs will remain frozen while workers receive the same quality of coverage. Workers also won union dental coverage, paid sick days, and a dollar per hour wage increase.
The hotly contested issue in negotiations was the retirement plan, which the company wanted to gut and replace with a 401K. The workers remained united and won a 401K plan in which the company pays 60 cents for every hour worked and additionally will contribute 50 cents for every dollar an employee puts in.
The 500 skilled garment workers make high-end clothing for Brooks Brothers and other major retailers. The workers, from a dozen countries and speaking many languages, stuck together through months of demonstrations, letter writing campaigns, meetings with legislators, and negotiating sessions with the company.