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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bradford Dyeing is dying

2007 fire at Bradford Dyeing
Bradford Dyeing (a.k.a. Bradford Printing and Finishing) closed its doors this week. The last 45 employees were told they were on “furlough” as the troubled military clothing manufacturer finds it has run out of money. According to the Westerly Sun, Bradford CEO Nick Griseto has been counting on a bail-out from the town of Westerly in the form of a $707,000 share of the town’s anticipated Community Development Block Grant funding.

The once prosperous company right near the Westerly-Charlestown town line has been on the decline for years. But missing from media stories about Bradford are the real reasons why Bradford tanked.




There has been a textile mill at that location on Bradford Road since the Civil War. In 1911, the mill was incorporated as the Bradford Dyeing Association (BDA) and for most of the last century, it has prospered. Not so long ago, in 2007, the Bradford Dyeing Association (BDA) employed 275 union workers.

But mishaps and mismanagement chipped away at BDA’s solvency starting around 10 years ago. Poor environmental management practices led to BDA losing Clean Air and Clean Water lawsuits brought against it by state environmental groups.

In May, 2007, a major blaze destroyed sections of the mill, setting back production and costing millions to repair.

BDA management got into an ill-advised argument with their biggest customer, the US government’s Defense Logistics Agency (by law, military clothing must be made in the USA) over quality and coloring issues with fabric used in Battle Dress Uniforms (BDUs). This product line was the single biggest source of revenue for the company.

BDA was unsuccessful in finding enough replacement business even though they had a full-time Executive Vice-President for Sales and Marketing, Nick Griseto. Griseto may have been hampered in doing his job by being a full-time resident of Seabrook Island, a South Carolina resort.

In 2008, BDA managers assessed the problems they faced and found the obvious cause for all their woes: the union.

Clearly, it was UNITE HERE that was responsible for the toxic pollution, the fire, the problems with DLA and the failure to find new customers. And it was the union that needed to pay. But the union was not willing to allow management to make workers pay for the company’s problems.

Then BDA come up with an extreme solution. On November 25, 2008, they shut down. One month later, they announced they would reopen.

Then on January 7, 2009, they re-opened in the same location, doing the same business, but with a new sign hanging over the door saying “Bradford Printing and Finishing,” and a juggled management roster that now put crack South Carolina sales guy Nick Griseto in the CEO chair.

Oh, and they claimed they were a “new company” and no longer bound by the union contract.

Griseto held a job fair to re-hire workers, graciously allowing the old work force to apply, but making them no guarantees. He said he expected to hire some of them as he built a work force of 75 within the year. But no union.

About 45 workers did get jobs and a handful of them were union members who worked for BDA before BDA re-shuffled the deck.

The “new” company never got up to speed. The union challenged management’s blatant violation of labor law – the sham creation of  a “new” company that was little more than the old company wearing a fake mustache. Government contracts were still hard to get due to spending cuts caused by our economic emergency.

I was working for UNITE HERE as deputy director of the Manufacturing, Distribution and Retail division so I had my staff take a very hard look at Griseto and the other former BDA managers.

As we started pulling public records, the choice of Griseto as CEO seemed pretty bizarre. In addition to the South Carolina address ( and a really nice boat) and his less-than-spectacular performance as BDA’s marketing VP, Griseto had a long history of failed companies and major legal troubles.

Griseto’s former companies -  Griseto Mills (NJ), Condotti Fabrics (Fall River, MA) and Via Condotti (NY) – all failed, often with creditors and the government chasing Griseto for money.

In one case, Rosenblatt Textiles v. Griseto (US District Court for So. District of NY, Sept. 1999), Griseto’s conduct during the trial and failure to obey orders of the court so angered the judge that he declared There comes a point when a defendant’s disregard of explicit orders of the Court can no longer be tolerated and extreme sanctions must be invoked.  The Court is satisfied that the defendant deliberately disregarded its orders on at least two occasions, even though he was on notice that a failure to comply would result in the entry of a default judgment against him.”

Adding to Griseto’s problem was a lawsuit against him by his own lawyer who sued Griseto because Griseto didn't pay him for representation in prior legal problems. Griseto represented himself – and not very well –  in the Rosenblatt case.

In Brittany Dying v. Griseto (US District Court for the So. Dis. Of NY), the decision was that Griseto committed fraud and fraudulent concealment against Brittany. The decision was handed down in November 2000. Only months later, Bradford Dyeing hired Griseto as their Marketing VP.

And there were tax liens and civil judgments galore against Griseto that should have raised a red flag for BDA if they did any sort of background check at all before they hired him.

So fast forward 10 years and here we are, losing another major area employer. Westerly Town Manager Steve Hartford (who has his own profound financial problems) told the Westerly Sun he hopes to come up with the CDBG funding to bail out Griseto.

But even with the bail-out, Bradford might still be terminal. Griseto says that on top of everything else that has gone wrong, the company has still not rebounded after being flooded in last year’s historic rains. Plus, Griseto is now under an order from the National Labor Relations Board to recognize the union. The NLRB  upheld the union’s charge that Griseto broke the law when he broke the contract after he created a sham company.

I hate to see those workers lose their jobs. While I worked for the union, I met many of them and know they really need the money. I also think government should help small businesses to preserve jobs. But it would be a big mistake for Westerly to hand more money over to Bradford Printing/Dyeing or whatever it wants to call itself without some important conditions.

First, Griseto must go. He has had since 2001 to make Bradford a going concern.  

Second, Bradford needs to honor the union contract. Contrary to right-wing opinion, unions do not hate the employers of their members or wish them ill. In fact, the opposite is true. Unions want union employers to thrive. When employers behave honorably, the union will generally reciprocate and do everything in its power to help the employer’s business do well. Unions know that’s really the best path to job security and good wages and benefits for members. Bradford can’t hope to survive and thrive without the active help and support of its workers and their union.

Without those two conditions, Westerly would be wasting its $707,700.

Author: Will Collette