Boycott aims to halt plant shutdown
The Oakland Tribune - Saturday, November 24, 1984
By Jack Cheevers
A national boycott is being organized against Sierra Designs in an effort to pressure the camping-equipment firm to reverse plans to close its Oakland manufacturing plant next February
The shutdown will eliminate about 100 jobs at Sierra DesIgns, a manufacturer of high-quality down jackets, tents and other
“We want to hurt their sales and we want to put community pressure ... to stop that closure,” said Joe Regacho , of the Oakland-based Plant Closures Project, which Is helping organize the boycott.
The closures project plans to announce the boycott today at press conferences in Berkeley and San Francisco.
Sierra Designs spokesman Paul Kramer said the firm is shutting down the plant and subcontracting out sewing work in the Far East, Texas and elsewhere in an effort to cut labor costs.
Workers complain the company has offered them only three weeks severance pay even though many have worked for Sierra Designs for 10 and 15 years. The firm’s work force is made up mostly of middle-aged : Chinese, Filipino and Mexican women.
"When you have been working there for so many years, you feel that’s your place, that’s your home,” said sewing machine operator Leonor Rodriguez, an 11 year Sierra Designs employee. “They want to make more profits for their pockets, but what about our pockets?”
Workers say they are paid an average of $4.50 an hour on a piece-work basis. But Kramer said “a lot” of seamstresses earn
$20,000 a year when the work volume is heavy. Kramer said high labor costs have hurt the firm, and ¡t hasn’t been profitable for Its parent company, CML Group, a Massachusetts-based holding company that markets leisure products under 13 trade names.
He said several Bay Area camping equipment makers have gone into bankruptcy recently, and others have closed plants and turned to subcontracting out work in the Southeastern U.S. and Asia.
Sierra Designs is negotiating with an Oakland garment contractor to take over its tent line, Kramer said, and is urging that firm to hire about five Sierra Designs seamstresses.
Although I appreciated The Tribune’s article concerning our struggle to keep Sierra Designs from closing its plant in Oakland
and giving our jobs to factories overseas, I must challenge one of Paul Kramer’s statements.
Kramer, who is in charge of manufacturing at Sierra Designs, is quoted as saying that a lot of his sewing operators make over $20,000. To the best of my knowledge no one has made that kind of money since 1982, when the company began reducing our piece rates, and the one or two who did manage to make that much in years past did so only because they were working 50 to 60 hours per week.
By no means are we greedy, overpaid workers fighting to keep fat paychecks. We are simply American citizens fighting to keep our jobs.
Sierra Designs Workers Union,