Halloween is coming early to Brylane, but the apparel and home goods catalog giant won’t be getting any treats. Textile union demonstrators in Halloween costumes plan to haunt Brylane’s New York-based corporate headquarters on Friday, Oct. 18.
The Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees (UNITE) is charging that the $1.6 billion Brylane has been harassing workers trying to join a union at the cataloger’s two Indiana distribution centers (DCs).
UNITE, which currently represents all the employees at Brylane’s Chadwick’s of Boston apparel catalog DC in West Bridgewater, MA, has been organizing with Brylane’s Indianapolis DC workers since October 2001. According to Mary Kay Devine, field director, office of corporate and financial affairs for UNITE, the Brylane employees are seeking union representation to improve what they claim are unsafe workplace conditions, namely, a higher-than-average rate of repetitive motion injuries in 2000.
Brylane’s chairman/CEO Russell Stravitz would not comment on the planned protest, but he acknowledges the cataloger’s ongoing struggle with the union. On Aug. 1, Brylane had filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold a secret ballot election for the Indiana DC workers to vote on the union. The NLRB denied the petition on Sept. 9; Brylane appealed on Sept. 20.
“We believe our associates have the right to freely associate with whomever they choose,” Stravitz says. “However, to recognize UNITE as a union would not be fair to the employees who choose not to be part of the union.”
Brylane, a subsidiary of French conglomerate Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (PPR), markets and distributes apparel and home furnishings for nine mail order catalogs, including Brylane, KingSize, Jessica London, Roaman’s, and Lerner New York.