October 21, 2019

Baseball hero Sean Doolittle stepped up to the plate for working people

Author: Ned Hoskin
Source:  NYSUT Communications
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sean doolittle
Caption: Sean Doolittle of the Washington Nationals celebrates with teammates after being pulled in the ninth inning of game four of the National League Division Series. Doolittle was a proud and vocal supporter of New Era Cap workers during the #NewEraHatsOff campaign earlier this year. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)

Rooting for the guy who rooted for us

Well, baseball season is over in New York — in the Bronx and in Queens. And yes, the Red Sox are off fishing somewhere, too.

But union members in New York definitely have a rooting interest in the World Series — a hero for working people. The series starts Tuesday in Texas, pitting the Washington Nationals against the Houston Astros.

Think back to January and February in wintry Western New York, and to spring training in sunny Florida, for a great reason to support one team in the 2019 Fall Classic.

Union members bundled up to protest in solidarity with employees from New Era, the Buffalo-based company that manufactures the official caps worn by major league baseball players, as well as millions of cheaper replicas.

The company was planning to close its elite manufacturing facility in Derby the only New Era shop that was unionized and the only shop where they made the actual caps worn by ball players on the field.

michele amoia
FILE PHOTO: In January, NYSUT members and Western New York labor activists rallied for New Era Cap workers in front of New Era Field, the home of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills that bears the company’s name. Photo by Matt Smith.

Western New Yorkers rallied, picketed and literally took their “Hats Off,” throwing New Era caps to the ground in disgust. It was big news.

But the campaign really heated up when Washington Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle, a proud member of the Major League Baseball Players Association, spoke out. He tweeted:

“My hat goes off to the workers at the New Era factory in Derby. These workers make the most visible symbol of our sport and they rely on fair wages & benefits to support their families. This is about protecting jobs with dignity and standing with workers who help grow our game.”

And then, he published an op ed in The Washington Post, saying: “The Derby workers’ skill and dedication are evident in every stitch. It’s a privilege for me to wear their caps as part of my uniform.”

Joe Cantafio, president of the West Seneca TA and a member of the NYSUT Board, helped organize the Western New York Area Labor Federation’s resistance to New Era. He’s a big fan of Sean Doolittle.

“I’m going to root for the guy who rooted for us when we needed him,” Cantafio said.

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