I bought a suit a couple of years back for a conference in the States. I’d arrived and unpacked, only to find my suit had been hanging unused for so long at home that moths had been right through it. Bit of a panic, but I was cheered up tremendously by finding a UNITE union made logo tucked into the inside pocket of my new Hart Marx whistle.
Well, it seems I’m in good company, as that 136 year old US gents’ outfitter has an even more notable client than me – a certain Barack Obama. Unfortunately both the POTUS and I could now be in danger of losing our sartorial shine, as the firm are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, with a bailed-out bank trying to deny Hart Marx the second chance they themselves received.
SEIU are very much on the case for their members (don’t ask) at Hart Marx, and have mounted a rally and impressive media blitz in conjunction with company management. They’ve got the Illinois state Treasurer toÂ visit their plant in Des Plaines and even vow to sever government business ties with Wells Fargo bank, should they close on credit and force the ailing company into liquidation, rather than giving them the time to find a buyer as a going concern.
Wells Fargo received a $25bn government money bailout, and the union is milking this apparent hypocrisy for all it’s worth – a strategy that paid off at an earlier union sit-in at Chicago’s similarly threatened Republic Windows and Door company last year. Two potential buyers for the company see the value in keeping the Des Plaines plant operational, and the workers have voted to sit in if Wells Fargo pulls the plug before a rescue has a proper chance.
Losing the firm would be a real shame for a big piece of American tailoring and labour history (Hart Marx’s 30,000 employees in 1910 began a key dispute, which resulted in the formation of the United Garment Workers’ union), as well as catastrophic for the Ilinois garment industry, and the families of the 3000 union members still working at Hart Marx.
If you’ve got a second, please go now and send an online campaign message to Wells Fargo from SEIU’s campaign site, and keep my good friend and I in natty, ethical, union made suits for many years to come. BTW, you’ll note from the URL that SEIU are using the same web consultants as Barack Obama – tch, what namedroppers!
UPDATE 24/10/10: Rather late, but I only just noticed this update to the story. The workers won! After some hard campaigning aimed at creditor bank Wells Fargo, they agreed to hold credit long enough to enable a sale to take place as a going concern, rather than simply selling the assets, and keep jobs in Illinois.