Beloit Stay Open
The Grim Reaper strode menacingly down a road here on Sept. 30, not in some early
Halloween pageant but as part of a forceful protest against the frightful threat of
yet another plant closing and the death of 300 more manufacturing jobs.
Hundreds of UE Local 212 members and supporters (the "Reaper" among them)
marched the four and a half miles from the Beloit-Jones plant in Dalton to Park Square
here to give muscle to their demand that Harnischfeger Inc. delay plans to close the plant
and work with the union and elected officials to keep the plant open.
Just days before, the City Council hired a jet plane and sent Local 212 Pres. Patrick
Huban and public officials to corporate headquarters in Deerfield, Il. to talk to top
management. State representatives, aides to U.S. Rep. John Olver and U.S. Sen. Edward
Kennedy, the mayor of Pittsfield and town manager of Dalton and Huban raised alternatives
to closure. Management was uninterested.
Workers say bosses lied to them about Harnischfegers plans to close the plant.
"We worked 90-hour weeks this summer," said Rudy Pfeiler, a crane operator who
organized the march. "They said that if we showed a good value, they wouldnt
Adding further insult to injury, the personnel manager has warned workers they risk
losing their severance pay if they find new jobs before the plant closes Oct. 31.
Local 212 has demanded that the closing be postponed, proposing an employee takeover or
eminent domain as an alternative to a shutdown. Meanwhile, the local union has been
negotiating a severance package; a vote on that agreement was due as the UE NEWS
went to press.
"Brothers and sisters, what is happening here is not right," declared UE Dir.
of Org. Bob Kingsley at the Park Square rally.
Jeffrey T. Graves, Harnischfegers chief executive, has defended the cuts as
"necessary to maximize shareholder value," Kingsley pointed out. "Do you
know what we say to Jeffrey T. Graves?" he asked. ("Go to hell?" a voice in
the crowd offered helpfully.) "Shame on you!" replied Kingsley.
A pensive moment is shared by
retired Dir. of Org. Hugh Harley, District 2 Pres. Judy Atkins, Bob Sargent, march
organizer Rudy Pfeiler and Joanne Marrian. Sarge Sargent, who has worked in
the plant for more than 30 years, spoke at the Pittsfield rally.
Retired Dir. of Org. Hugh Harley, who helped organize the Jones division of Beloit ,
addressed the protesters at the plant gate before the march. What is happening to
Beloit-Jones, Harley said, "is the fault of a rotten capitalist system that we need
to get rid of." There were tears in the eyes of old-timers who fought alongside
Harley to build the union.
Among those speaking at the Park Square rally were U.S. Rep. John Olver and state
Representatives Shaun Kelley and Christopher Hodgkins. District Two Pres. Judy Atkins, who
emceed the rally, noted that while clearly the union has many political friends, the
ability of Harnischfeger to close a profitable factory demonstrates the need to build the
Labor Party and organize political strength.
The parade route took marchers past closed plants; signs carried by marchers called
attention to other manufacturing plants in western Massachusetts have that closed in
recent years. One sign read, "Another nail in the Berkshire coffin."
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