Students From 14 Universities Travel to Alabama to Investigate Charges of Racial Discrimination at a Plant Making Licensed Apparel for Their Schools

New Era Cap Inc. of Buffalo, New York, manufactures licensed apparel for a large number of colleges and universities across the United States. In 2007 a union representing the 900 workers at a New Era manufacturing plant in Mobile, Alabama — 81 percent of whom are black — accused the company of widespread racial discrimination, low wages, unsafe and unclean working conditions, and forced overtime.

New Era vehemently denies the accusations. But the company has refused to cooperate in an independent investigation by the Workers Rights Consortium, a group of student organizations formed to monitor college and university contracts with outside licensing companies.

Recently, student delegates from 14 major universities traveled to Mobile to meet with workers at the plant and to investigate charges of unfair labor practices and discrimination. Depending on their findings, the students may return to campus to demand that the universities end their licensing agreements with the company.