Garment Union Branches Merge
From The World Journal
November 12, 2003

Local 23-25 and Local 155 of Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) merged earlier this month to found the Metropolitan Area Joint Board. Union leaders said they would try to incorporate more branches to bolster the declining garment industry and beef up unionists’ power.

The merger will not affect the current benefits enjoyed by members, said May Ying Chen, Vice President of Local 23-25. The only change is that member’s identification cards will be replaced with new photo IDs, she said.

Local 23-25 President Edgar Romney was appointed manager of the Metropolitan Area Joint Board. When asked whether she will succeed him as President of Local 23-25, Chen replied that that would be determined through the union election in January.

Entrepreneurs hope that the money and resources saved as a result of the merger would be used to pay for workers’ medical care, and reduce the burden on them.

Chen said the merger was a result of changes in the economic environment and the government’s trade policies. More clothing factories are closing, and more workers are losing their jobs, she said, resulting in union branches with fewer members. The merger will help pool resources and streamline operations and administration, and the new board will provide more services and attract more workers to join, she added.

Local 155 used to have many Chinese members, but now its 1,000-plus members are mostly Hispanic. They used to make knit sweaters and are now producing more curtains, Chen said. Local 23-25 has 5,000 to 8,000 members.
Other union staff members said the merger would help strengthen workers’ influence, especially when negotiating contracts with employers, and also attract dropouts back into the union.

It is hard to predict what impact the merger will have on garment entrepreneurs, said Teddy Lai, Executive Director of Greater Blouse, Skirt and Undergarment Association. He said he hoped the union would take advantage of reduced costs to help share the burden of paying for workers’ welfare. Entrepreneurs will be disadvantaged now that they face more unionists, he said.

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Translated from Chinese by Shasha Dai

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