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Hollander settles union strike

Marvin Lazaro -- Home Textiles Today, May 28, 2001

BOCA RATON, FL — After more than 250 cumulative days of strikes by workers at three of its factories, Hollander Home Fashions has settled its differences with its factory workers and the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE).

Agreements between the home textiles manufacturer, based here, and its employees at the Vernon, CA, Tignall, GA and Frackville, PA plants were reached on May 17 and 18 after a series of weeks of strikes by factory workers at all three locations began in early through mid-March.

"We're quite pleased that things are getting back to normal," Jeff Hollander, president, told Home Textiles Today. "The transition back to normal operating conditions has been very smooth."

According to Hollander, the company agreed to "decent wage proposals," and also agreed to pay the implementation fee for a 401(k) plan, but on a non-contributory basis, a point which the company had extensively advocated.

"We believe the union is satisfied, and I know we're satisfied. We (UNITE and Hollander) both look forward to re-establishing a working relationship," Hollander said. "We're sorry our employees were out of work for a while."

Workers at Hollander's plants in Vernon walked off their jobs on March 8. At the core of their protest was their contention that Hollander should provide a retirement plan for its factory workers, namely a 401(k). Four days later, Tignall factory workers also walked off their jobs on a sympathy strike. The tensions between Hollander and UNITE culminated on May 1 when factory workers at the Frackville, PA, plant also began to strike.

Hollander contended that employees should have a choice on where to invest their money, whether it be in a 401(k), personal investments or in a government IRA.

UNITE may also have inflamed tensions when it alleged that the lack of a retirement plan was a result of discrimination against Hollander's largely Latino workforce at the Vernon plant. Leo Hollander, ceo/chairman, promptly blasted that as "a shameful lie."

Despite the extended layoff, Hollander said he was not aware of any business Hollander may have lost. The only complaints, he said, came from truckers of retailers who were not able to pass through picket lines; a problem that was solved when Hollander loaded its own trucks and sent them to the retailers' local distribution centers.

"In fact, it was our best April ever," Hollander said. "It was still a soft April, but it was significantly over [last year's April numbers]."

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