Despite losing one battle Wednesday (Jan. 31), United Steelworkers Local 9550 still plans to fight the war as the union tries to save 450 jobs at the Cequent Performance Products plant in Goshen, Ind.
In fact, they won another battle in the ruling handed down by Judge Robert L. Miller Jr. Wednesday in U.S. District Court Northern District of Indiana. Miller 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.
“Obviously we are disappointed in that portion of the ruling of the court,” said Jim Robinson, United Steelworkers District 7 director.
However, Miller did affirm a previous ruling that the dispute over the company being able to outsource jobs while laying people off, is subject to arbitration.
“The court confirmed that grievance was arbitrable, and confirmed that the arbitrator had sufficient authority to remedy what the company is doing,” Robinson said.
“So to that extent we feel positive about the decision. What we’re saying is, you are sending work to Mexico and laying people off and that violates the contract.”
Cequent officials could not be reached for comment. The company is owned by Detroit, Mich.-based Trimas Corp., which announced the layoffs in late November.
No date has been set for the arbitration hearing, said Mike O’Brien, Sub District 4 director for much of northern Indiana.
The union has received dates from the arbitrator, O’Brien said, and is waiting for the company to respond.
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Cequent Performance Products is moving out from its Goshen. Ind. plant and shipping production to a facility in Reynosa, Mexico, parent company TriMas Corp. announced Wednesday (Nov. 21).
As reported by the Elkhart Truth, it was an unwelcome piece of Thanksgiving news for hundreds of employees of the Goshen facility, where they make hitches and structural components for RVs and trailers. The 450 local jobs will end throughout next year, the company announced.
“They told us they made the decision and then they wished us ‘Happy Thanksgiving,’” said Deb Hathaway, vice president of steelworkers local 9550, which represents more than 350 of the 450 affected people.
“It was a very gloomy situation,” she said, and it will loom heavily on hundreds of family Thanksgiving gatherings tomorrow. “We’re all so thankful we just lost our jobs,” Hathaway said.
In a written announcement of the closing, Dave Wathen, president of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based TriMas, said, “While these types of decisions are never easy, we make them with significant consideration.”
He continued, “For those employees affected by the closure, the company is committed to working with them during this transition,” said Wathen.
According to the Elkhart Truth report, it’s been a contentious process since the company announced the possibility of moving the jobs last month. The union representing most of the local employees filed a federal lawsuit against the company, the company started having police come to the plant, and earlier today production stopped due to a bomb threat.
That had workers waiting outside for about 2 1/2 hours, Hathaway said. Then company officials made the announcement just before the end of the first shift. The company did allow second-shift workers to use vacation time to take the afternoon off without forfeiting holiday pay, she said.
At the first of next year, the company will tell workers how they’ll start to eliminate departments. Hathaway expects production to move to a single shift as things ramp down.
Meanwhile, the union continues to fight the move, she said. “We’re still fighting,” hoping to push the move into 2014.
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A spokesman for Michigan-based Cequent Performance Products Inc. said “no decision will be made or announced today (Nov. 19)” regarding a potential move of the company’s Goshen, Ind., operation to Mexico, according to Inside INdiana Business.
The trailer hitch manufacturer employs more than 400 at the Elkhart County plant.
Cequent makes aftermarket towing and trailer products. The company announced a preliminary decision a few weeks ago to move production to Mexico. It had anticipated announcing a final decision by today.
Unionized steelworkers at the plant have a pending suit in federal court if Cequent decides to move.
Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based TriMas Corp. has responded to a claim by Steelworkers Local 9550 that the company does not want to continue meeting with union representatives about the possible closure of its 400-employee Goshen Cequent Performance Products plant, the Goshen News reported in a front-page story on Sunday (Nov. 11).
The union issued the statement Thursday at a protest in front of the plant along Lincolnway East on the east side of the Elkhart County seat.
“As matter of policy, the company does not comment on pending litigation,” Cequent’s management stated in an e-mail. “However, we can tell you that we remain fully committed to honoring our promise to continue meeting with the union at any time up to Nov. 19, to discuss this preliminary recommendation and receive the union’s input.”
Nov. 19 is the date the company has set for a decision on whether the plant that manufactures trailer hitches and other towing products under several brand names will be closed and its production moved to Mexico.
The union filed a federal lawsuit Thursday seeking a court order keeping the company from removing equipment and moving it to Reynosa, Mexico, where Goshen jobs will be moved to if the plant is closed.
The United Steelworkers (USW) International representatives, on behalf of more than 350 Local 9550 members, today (Nov. 8) filed a lawsuit against Cequent Performance Products Inc. in federal court to enjoin the company from moving parts and equipment out of its Goshen, Ind., facility to a plant in Reynosa, Mexico.
The union reported in a press release that Cequent has continued to move parts and equipment out of the plant even though the parties are still bargaining over the decision to move the work out of the country. Cequent, a subsidiary of Bloomfield, Mich.-based TriMas Corp., builds hitch products under the brand names Bulldog, ROLA, Highland, The Pro’s Brand, Draw-Tite, Reese, Hidden Hitch, Fulton, Wesbar and Tekonsha.
Cequent representatives told the union on Oct. 18 it would make its decision as to whether or not it would move the production of trailer hitches to Mexico in order to secure lower wages. Amid a great deal of media attention following union-organized demonstrations outside the Cequent plant on U.S. 33 on the east side of Goshen, the parties have had two meetings. TriMas said it would reach a final decision by Nov. 19.
The USW said in the press release it has offered to continue to meet and bargain over the decision to move – an offer that was rejected by Cequent. The union has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board for the company’s alleged failure to bargain in good faith.
“We hope that this will get Cequent’s attention and show them that the Steelworkers are serious about trying to keep the work in the United States, we are serious about protecting the rights of our members, and we are serious about Cequent playing by the same rules we are all subject to,” said USW Sub-4 Director Mike O’Brien.
“Keep our jobs in America!” shouted one angry Cequent worker, a member of the local United Steelworkers union. “Made in the U.S.A.!” shouted another.
According to a Goshen News report, drivers honked their vehicles and members of the community shouted their support as Cequent Performance Products workers picketed along U.S. 33 in Goshen, Ind., near the entrance to the plant Monday (Oct. 29) afternoon.
Local union vice president Deb Hathaway said the picketers — and Cequent workers in general — have felt the support of the community ever since Cequent’s parent company, TriMas, announced Oct. 18 that the production lines at the Goshen plant may move to Reynosa, Mexico, putting around 450 jobs in jeopardy.
“This means a lot to have their support,” Hathaway said. “This doesn’t just impact the 450 workers here at Cequent — it impacts the whole community.”
Many of the picketers have worked for Cequent for several years. Mark Schmanski has worked for the company for nearly 20 years. He said he’s never missed a day of work.
“I was shocked for the first couple of days after I heard (the announcement),” Schmanski said. “Now I’m angry. This building has made millions and millions and millions for this company. I would understand moving the jobs if this was not profitable, but this is just about greed.”
Schmanski said no one from TriMas Corp. came down to the plant to tell the workers, but rather someone from the plant’s management made the announcement.
Employees weren’t the only ones on the picket lines Monday. Brendan Mullen, the Democratic candidate for Indiana’s U.S. District 2 House seat, was at the protest alongside USW workers.
“I’m here today because we need to keep Hoosier jobs here,” Mullen said. “For this company with such extraordinary profits to ship jobs overseas is unacceptable.”
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An expected meeting this afternoon could give more than 400 local workers at the Goshen, Ind., Cequent Performance Products facility more information on whether there is any chance to save their jobs.
According to a report by WSBT, South Bend, leaders in the Steelworkers Union were scheduled to meet today with Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman to discuss the situation.
Cequent parent TriMas Corp. announced it has made a preliminary decision to close its Goshen plant and move the jobs to Mexico. A final decision is expected next month. Cequent produces trailer hitch products for the RV and other industries.
United Steelworkers Union members picketed on Monday to draw attention to their cause. Officials for the city of Goshen said they are doing what they can to keep the company here.
“This will be a big deal for this town if we lose those jobs,” said City Councilman Jeremy Stutsman.
“They are getting the rug pulled out from under them after they have contributed so greatly to the company’s success,” said United Steel Workers spokesman Mike O’Brien. “This is not a plant that is losing money. They made hundreds of millions of dollars.”
The union says it will sit down with the company on Oct. 30 to talk about the proposed move.
Editor’s Note: The following is an editorial appearing in Sunday’s (Oct. 28) Goshen News opining on the potential closure of the Cequent Performance Products facility and the loss of 450 jobs.
This past week much of the buzz in the Elkhart County business community has revolved around the all-too-likely closure of Cequent Towing Products in Goshen, a company that manufactures hitches and towing accessories and employs roughly 450 people here.
After studying profit margins and costs, officials at Cequent’s parent company, TriMas Corp., based out of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., have recommended closing the Goshen plant and moving those production lines to Reynosa, Mexico. A final decision is expected in November.
This recommendation is disturbing on a number of fronts. Our local economy was decimated four years ago as the national recession took hold. Building it back up has been an uphill battle ever since. The loss of 450 local jobs will have a significant strain on our recovery, as well as the lives of those who would be newly unemployed.
Meanwhile, TriMas officials reported record third quarter profits on Thursday. Third-quarter sales for TriMas were a reported $336 million, up 21% from the same quarter in 2011. Profit for the quarter jumped from $35.8 million in 2011 to $36.6 million in 2012. Good for them. It is good to see hard work rewarded in the business sector. And we certainly feel it is safe to say that our local workers contributed to the success Cequent and TriMas have been experiencing.
We can’t blame TriMas for examining its business plan for increased efficiencies and cost savings. That’s smart business and TriMas owes it to its shareholders to be diligent about seeking profits. But at what cost? How much money is enough? John D. Rockefeller was once asked that question. His reply: “Just a little bit more.”
To achieve more, the cost appears to be American jobs. Indiana jobs. Goshen jobs. All this after Goshen City Council members twice in the past seven years approved tax phase-ins for improvements at Cequent, saving the company tens of thousands of dollars in tax costs.
We understand that business is business and that numbers matter. But we also understand that a community is a community and people matter. We hope — we’ll even plead — that TriMas executives think this through carefully and consider the lives of those who will truly be affected by this possible closure.
In the quest for “a little bit more,” it pains us that some of our own will potentially have a whole lot less.
Though it’s not looking good, a final decision has not been made regarding the closing of a Cequent Performance Products factory in Goshen, Ind., and moving it to Mexico, according to a company official.
The South Bend Tribune reported that if it does close, 450 workers in the trailer-hitch manufacturing factory will be looking for work.
Many workers from the Cequent factory packed a Goshen City Council meeting earlier this week to push city officials into trying to keep the plant open.
They wanted to know if there was any recourse the city could take regarding two tax abatements the company has been given, Mark Brinson, community development director for Goshen, said.
Brinson said the workers were told that the city is limited by the state statute on what it could do to recover taxes that had been abated.
One tax phase-in already has run its course, Brinson noted, and the company did not file for deductions on the active one, “so they did not receive any benefits this year.”
The company already moved one small portion of its operations to Mexico about a year ago.
The company told workers last week about its plans to close the factory, although company spokesman Alan Upchurch told The Goshen News that a final decision isn’t expected until next month.
“The increasingly competitive global market is forcing customers to demand the lowest cost products,” Upchurch told the Goshen paper. A move would also lower shipping costs because many of its customers have assembly plants in Mexico and the southern United States.
Upchurch said if Cequent, a subsidiary of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based TriMas Corp., decided to close the Goshen factory, it would likely take much of 2013 to complete.
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Goshen, Ind., elected officials and employees say they will work their hardest to find a way the city can help Cequent Towing Products employees, but finding a solution might be difficult.
The Goshen News reported that parent company TriMas Corp. recently announced a preliminary recommendation to shut the Goshen facility, moving production lines to Reynosa, Mexico, according to a company statement. While it’s not a final decision, employees expect to hear the outcome by late November, according to the statement.
Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman and Dorinda Heiden-Guss, director of the Elkhart Economic Development Corp., are working to schedule a meeting with Cequent officials.
“I don’t know if there is anything we can do,” Kauffman said Wednesday (Oct. 24), adding he is certainly willing to try to help retain the jobs.
Heiden-Guss said it is a wage and benefits issues and as soon as she heard the news about the closure plans Friday she went to the plant to meet with company officials and was referred to other executives to arrange a future meeting. She believes that meeting will occur soon.
“Your heart does bleed for (Cequent employees),” Kauffman said. “These aren’t high-paying jobs anyway.”
He also expressed frustration with TriMas. He said the company had a good profit in 2011. He said of the planned move to Mexico, “I think it’s to drive the wages down and the profit up.”
The city’s most likely way of reclaiming anything against Cequent is through property tax phase-ins, according to city attorney Larry Barkes, who spoke at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. The City Council approved two property tax phase-ins for the company over the past seven years, both for equipment improvements.
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