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Union Apparel cuts 69 jobs

| Thursday, Sept. 6, 2001

Union Apparel Inc. of Norvelt has laid off 69 workers, another domestic garment industry casualty in a 20-year war with foreign competition.

Founded in 1976, the Mt. Pleasant Township factory employed more than 300 people at various points during its 25-year history. The company manufactures men's and women's blazers and suits, and uniforms for the airline industry.

The garment plant will remain open, staffed by about 13 salaried employees and eight to 10 warehouse workers. The hourly work force, which was laid off during August, are members of Local 976 of the United Needlecraft Industry Textile Employees union. The layoff also included seven salaried workers.

'We were producing 1,000 garments a week. Right now, our sewing factory is laid off and production is at a standstill. We're trying to get orders, but indications aren't too good,' said John Kardos, vice president.

Kardos said Union Apparel hopes the layoff will not extend for more than six months, but due to the downturn in the economy and depressed nature of the garment industry, the company cannot be assured that orders will increase to a level requiring recalls.

'I can't say enough about our employees. They were a helluva work force. We still have some of our original hires. The fact we stayed competitive as long as we did is a miracle,' Kardos said.

Kardos said the domestic garment industry has been besieged by foreign competition for the past 20 years, as most of the apparel industry has gone overseas.

'Obviously, the economy is slow. But we're also seeing a lot (of apparel) from Asia, India, Eastern Europe and Mexico. The world is shrinking,' he said.

Kardos said many of Union Apparel's products appeared in various catalogs, including J.C. Penney and Nordstrom.

He said long-term contracts and commitments for orders are a thing of the past, as domestic producers are forced to scramble for piecemeal work orders to fill plant capacity.

Trying to generate more orders and preserve the business, Kardos said Union Apparel has only one card left to play - quick delivery of a high-quality product.

'Obviously, there are not a lot of new customers, and many shops we worked with are closed. It's difficult to compete pricewise,' he said.

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