Brief

Baldwin urges equity firm to halt Janesville factory shutdown

By: - June 16, 2021 4:27 pm

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Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) is urging a Los Angeles private equity firm to rethink its plan to close a Janesville factory this summer, reportedly to move the work to Mexico.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin headshot
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (official Senate portrait)

Baldwin sent an open letter Wednesday to OpenGate Capital CEO Andrew Nikou with a series of questions about the firm’s plan for the Hufcor plant in Janesville. The company’s product line includes partition dividers used in convention centers, hotels and similar public spaces.

Under Wisconsin’s plant-closing notification law, Hufcor reported it will close its Janesville factory starting in August, ending 166 jobs. The hourly workforce is represented by the IUE-CWA union, the industrial division of the Communications Workers of America. According to the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, the work is being shifted to facilities in Mexico.

“Hufcor has been an integral part of the Janesville community for nearly 120 years, providing jobs with good wages and benefits and contributing to our Made in Wisconsin economy,” Baldwin states in her letter to OpenGate Capital. The letter states that when OpenGate closed a Golden Guernsey dairy plant in Waukesha in 2013, the firm failed to properly notify workers in advance and failed to pay accrued wages and benefits, leading the state of Wisconsin “to file a claim with a bankruptcy court to help these workers receive a portion of the compensation they worked for and earned.”

Baldwin’s letter asks Nikou about the plans for Hufcor’s Janesville factory, including whether the jobs will, in fact, be outsourced to Mexico, whether the company intends give notice before actually closing the plant so workers aren’t locked out or prevented from retrieving their belongings, and whether it will pay laid-off workers their accrued wages and benefits.

The letter also refers to an unnamed plant in Mexico that OpenGate Capital owned and later sold, which was “allegedly overrun by a Mexican drug cartel.” In light of that incident, Baldwin asks, “will you reverse your plans to shut down the Janesville plant and move these Wisconsin jobs to Mexico?”

Representatives for Hufcor and OpenGate Capital did not immediately comment on the letter or the planned closing.

 

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Erik Gunn
Erik Gunn

Senior Reporter Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, along with related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.

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