Doolittle: The People Who Make MLB Caps Deserve Fair Wages

New Era Cap’s Derby facility is home to approximately 219 workers who will lose their jobs when the plant closes at the end of March. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News file photo)

Reprinted from The Washington Post by Sean Doolittle on February 28, 2019.

… “For almost 60 years, workers at New Era’s factory in Derby, New York, have been making the caps that players wear during games,” writes Sean Doolittle in The Washington Post. “And since 1993, that factory near Buffalo has been the sole manufacturer of on-field caps for Major League Baseball. But the company announced in November that it would close the plant as part of a corporate shift away from manufacturing, transferring most of its work to overseas contractors and production for MLB to a nonunion facility in Florida. That means all 750 union-organized professional baseball players who will take the field on Opening Day this season will be wearing caps made by people who don’t enjoy the same labor protections and safeguards that we do — and fans will be buying caps made overseas at lower wages than U.S. workers earn. Our union helps ensure that we earn fair pay and benefits. It’s unfortunate that isn’t the case for the people who make something as integral to our game as the caps we wear.

Baseball caps are symbols of a game enshrined in our cultural memory as our national pastime. We remove them to show respect. We tip them to thank the fans. When a young up-and-coming player named Ken Griffey Jr. flipped his cap backward for batting practice 25 years ago, he drew national attention. Traditionalists believed that this simple act — a habit Griffey had carried with him since childhood as a tribute to his father, Ken Griffey Sr. — was an outright show of disrespect for baseball’s mysterious unwritten rules. The hordes of young fans who began turning their own caps around, too, silenced them. In the batting cages and sandlots of South Jersey, I was one of them, hoping my backward cap would grant me the magical power to play like ‘The Kid.’

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About Jeffrey Burman 5195 Articles
Jeff Burman served on the Guild’s Board of Directors from 1992 to 2019. He is now retired. He can be reached at

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