Minnesota, Machinists Union Stepping Up to Support Electrolux Workers

IAM Local 623 members are receiving an outpouring of support after management at Electrolux, a Sweden-based freezer and refrigerator manufacturer, announced the closing of its St. Cloud, Minn., plant. More than 900 IAM members will have their jobs terminated by 2020 if the company goes through with the closing.

On Saturday, Feb. 10, IAM members and leadership joined state and local politicians at St. Cloud City Hall to discuss what can be done for workers at one of the city’s oldest and largest workplaces.

“We talked about the apprehensions many of our members have,” said Directing Business Representative Colleen Murphy-Cooney, who used to work at the St. Cloud plant. “Unfortunately we have dealt with this in the past. Since 2004, Electrolux has closed plants and slashed thousands of jobs in Michigan, Iowa and Quebec.”

U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer and St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis listened to members’ concerns and offered support. The IAM was represented by Murphy-Cooney, Local 623 Communicator and Shop Chair Joe Baratta, Local 623 Negotiating Committee member Chad Randall, Local 623 Steward Bashir Mohamed, and IAM Special Representatives Geny R. Ulloa and Tony Wickersham.

READ: ‘We’re here to help’: Electrolux employees, state and local officials meet to plan next steps after closure [St. Cloud Times]

A 2005 study estimated that a future closing of St. Cloud’s Electrolux manufacturing facility would reduce the area’s economic output by $90 million.

After the company’s announcement, IAM International President Bob Martinez, as well as Klobuchar, Smith and Emmer wrote letters to Electrolux CEO Jonas Samuelson, urging management in Sweden to reconsider its decision to leave St. Cloud.

“These loyal, hard-working individuals and their families deserve dignity and respect from Electrolux,” wrote Martinez. “Treating workers in this fashion is simply unacceptable from any company seeking to act as a responsible employer.”

Electrolux management offered no advance notice of the plant closing before its Jan. 30 announcement. Kleis, the St. Cloud mayor, said the company told him as recently as December that it had no plans of closing the plant.

The IAM is also taking steps to help members at Harley-Davidson in Kansas City, Mo, who also learned on Jan. 30 that management plans on leaving the state and eliminating more than 800 jobs.

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