The immediate fate of nearly 350 members of the United Steelworkers at the Cequent Performance Products plant in Goshen, Ind., is in their own hands.
The South Bend Tribune reported that on Friday (Feb. 22), members of USW Local 9550 will vote on whether to accept a closure offer from Cequent, which is moving its plant to Mexico, or reject it and go to arbitration.
If workers reject the offer, an arbitration hearing is slated for April 18-19, according to Mike O’Brien, United Steelworkers Sub District 4 director.
Cequent’s parent Trimas Corp. officially announced in late November it would lay off 450 employees, almost 75% of them union workers. At the time, the company said it was moving its operations to Reynosa, Mexico, to reduce shipping costs since it has other plants in Texas and Mexico.
The company makes parts for the automotive and recreational vehicle industries.
In January, U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Miller Jr. ruled against the union’s attempt to be granted a preliminary injunction that would have prevented Cequent from moving equipment out of its Goshen plant in preparation for its move to Mexico.
However, Miller did affirm a previous ruling that the dispute over the company being able to outsource jobs while laying people off was subject to arbitration.
The company has informed the court that the Goshen facility is not scheduled to close permanently until the end of this year, and that the first layoffs will not occur until Friday. In addition, the company said more than half the employees will remain through the end of June and the remainder will be let go in December.
O’Brien said he won’t try to sway union members either way on the vote.
“There is no such thing as a guarantee,” O’Brien said regarding winning in arbitration. “While we feel confident about our case, we think membership should make that decision, and I am not going to push them one way or the other.”
The union will hold the vote in the Masonic Temple in Goshen, with the results expected sometime between 6 p.m and 7 p.m. Friday.