A U.S.-based mom-and-pop manufacturer known for paying its workers well has declared bankruptcy.
Oddly, some fans of President-elect Donald Trump ― whose professed economic populism and repeated pledges to revitalize U.S. manufacturing helped him score a surprise election victory ― seem delighted.
Twitter users, some bearing frog emojis that allude to a cartoon that came to symbolize white nationalism, began tweeting a link to a Wall Street Journal story about the bankruptcy Friday.
That’s because Unionwear, which is based in Newark, New Jersey, made the red “Make Donald Drumpf Again” hats ― a parody inspired by a segment from comedian John Oliver’s HBO show “Last Week Tonight.”
“That was a very small part of our business,” Mitch Cahn, the company’s president and founder, told The Huffington Post on Friday. “We had a great year in political merchandise, but it didn’t make a big dent in our sales number.”
Unionwear employs 151 workers, who are represented by Workers United, Local 155 ― a point of pride for the company, which touts the union on its website. Cahn said the company was forced to file for bankruptcy protection because the pension fund had reached “critical status,” meaning it lacks enough assets to meet at least 65 percent of future obligations.
“Our union pension fund really has nothing to do with our business,” he said, “but we were affected by it.”
The company plans to reorganize and sell itself sometime in the next 60 days. Cahn said he has a buyer lined up who plans to honor the union but negotiate a new contract.
Unionwear has been in the political hat-making business since 2000. The company made every hat for the campaigns of President Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain. During this election cycle, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Jeb Bush contracted Unionwear to make their campaign caps, too.
Trump’s popular “Make America Great Again” baseball caps are stitched in at a factory in Los Angeles, but an investigation by The Associated Press found that the hats did not contain a fabric the manufacturer insisted was used to make them. Two employees told the AP that the hats’ fabric, bills and stiffeners were imported.
Asked whether he sees any hypocrisy in Trump supporters gloating over Unionwear’s bankruptcy, Cahn paused and said “No.”
“I’m surprised anyone really cares,” he said. “We’re a small business in a very small, easy reorganization.”