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Marchers Demand
Beloit Stay Open

On the March to Save Beloit ...

PITTSFIELD, Mass.

The Grim Reaper strode menacingly down a road here on Sept. 30, not in some early Hallowe’en 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 Harnischfeger’s 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 wouldn’t close us."

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, Harnischfeger’s 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.

Pittsfield Rally

 

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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A Sorry Tale of Greed, from
Indonesia to Wall Street

Local 212 members and their families are being punished for economic conditions and business decisions they could neither control or influence.

The E.D. Jones Co., a 151-year-old manufacturer of paper-pulping machinery, was purchased by the Beloit Corp. in 1959 and acquired nearly a decade ago by Harnischfeger Inc. Harnischfeger is in trouble, as indicated by a slide in its stock price from $45 to about $7 a share.

Trying to cash in on the Asian boom of a few years ago, the company brokered a deal to build entire paper-making factories in Indonesia as well as supply the machinery. Eager to make the deal, Harnischfeger underbid and was forced to sell off some holdings to raise cash to pay for production of the machinery.

When the Indonesian economy crashed, only one factory had been built. Machinery valued at close to $500 million is sitting in U.S. warehouses. Harnischfeger had to write off $400 million in losses this year; top management faces a stockholders’ lawsuit.

Three years ago, Harnischfeger purchased two paper-making machinery factories from Ingersoll-Rand for $120 million, a purchase previously rejected by management as unwise. One plant has already been closed. Rather than declare a $100 million loss, Harnischfeger plans to close the consistently profitable Beloit-Jones plant and move the work to the remaining Ingersoll-Rand facility, which has never made a profit.

Why? In closing Beloit-Jones, Harnischfeger will only have to declare a $20 million loss, which will look better to the stock market — especially on top of the $400 million Indonesian disaster.

And so Beloit-Jones will be sacrificed in the hopes of temporary Wall Street approval.

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UE News - 10/98


Home -> UE News -> 1998 Archives -> Article

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