Sewing machine operator
Unionwear, Newark, N.J.
When did you start in the textile industry?
I started over 20 years ago in my native country of Ecuador and continue here in USA.
What is your background?
I have a certification in sewing and have been working at Unionwear for 14 years.
What types of products does your company specifically produce and what types of end products are they used in?
We produce baseball hats, bags, portfolios, special products for the military and PPE (masks, shields, gowns)
What does your job mean to you, your family and your community?
I am proud to work for a company that contributes to the community and continues to make a high-quality product in Newark, N.J.
What is your role in producing PPE products or inputs for these products for your company?
As a sewing machine operator, I proudly stitch high-quality products in any of the departments mention above. I worked on masks, shields, gowns and anything else company produced during that time.
How does it feel to have your company step up to address the PPE shortage during the pandemic?
It really feels good to be able to contribute to our community and country making a high-quality product during this difficult time of COVID-19.
Why is it important for textiles to be made/cut and sewn and/or finished in America?
Because we can make a good quality product and can give the opportunity for many people to have jobs in the USA.
When the virus began to spread, Unionwear was forced to downsize its plant from 150 employees to 50 while shifting all of its production into PPE such as shields, gowns and masks for communities and hospitals around the country. The company’s employees are members of Workers United, which affiliated with SEIU, the union that represents hospital workers in New York City. Company President Mitch Cahn met with the union and hospital association to find out what PPE the company could produce. The company also had suppliers for foam and clear vinyl, as well as the materials that go into headbands, and elastic to make the masks adjustable. So Unionwear decided that because these and other materials needed were already on hand, it would make clear vinyl face shields and reusable gowns.
Unionwear also was able to make lighter-weight, reusable surgical gowns with waterproof lining and a tight fit to prevent moisture penetration. The company produced half a million units combined of gowns and face shields from March through June, when demand for presidential election merchandise and made in USA political gear resumed.
“It was a total team effort, and I am very proud of all our associates who understood the importance of our work and the great contribution we all accomplish during this difficult time,” said Jose Bellon, director of Manufacturing.