Union plans rally to spotlight Rexnord job losses

As shutdown looms for Rexnord Corp.’s west-side Indianapolis plant this spring, the union representing those workers plans to stage a rally next week to publicize their plight.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Labor has certified that Rexnord workers qualify for Trade Adjustment Assistance, a program providing financial support and services to U.S. workers whose jobs move to a foreign country. 

In October, Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Rexnord announced it had “tentatively” decided to move its Indianapolis production to an existing company facility in Monterrey, Mexico. The following month, Rexnord affirmed that it would proceed with the Indianapolis plant closure. 

The closure will put about 375 people out of a job, said United Steelworkers Union Local 1999 President Chuck Jones. Local 1999 represents the 300 union employees at the Rexnord plant.

In a layoff notice Rexnord filed with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development in December, the company said it would begin layoffs around Feb. 13, “with further reductions occurring into June 2017.” It put the number of job losses at about 350.

A separate document also finalized in December—the shutdown agreement between the Rexnord and Local 1999—says that Rexnord intends to terminate all union members “by on or about April 30, 2017,” with the possible exception of those needed to help wind down plant operations.

“Their plan is to have the whole facility shut down by June 1,” Jones said.

IBJ was unable to reach Rexnord officials for comment Friday morning.

To call attention to Rexnord—and similar situations elsewhere–Local 1999 will host a labor rally from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Sheraton Indianapolis City Centre Hotel, 31 W. Ohio St. 

“We just want to keep it alive in people’s minds,” Jones said. “People are losing their jobs because America can’t compete with the $3-an-hour wages they’re paying in Mexico.”

The rally is open to the public and will feature live-via-video appearances by Sen. Bernie Sanders, United Steelworkers International President Leo Gerard and a host of other state and local union leaders and elected officials.

Local 1999 also represents workers at Carrier Corp.’s Indianapolis plant, which announced last Feburary that it would move 1,400 manufacturing jobs to Monterrey, Mexico. President Donald Trump highlighted the Carrier layoffs during his campaign, calling the situation an example of the problems with American trade policy.

In November, Carrier announced it would retain some of those Indianapolis jobs, and Trump visited the plant in December to celebrate the news.

Including the engineering and headquarters jobs that were always going to remain in Indianapolis, the local Carrier plant will continue to employ 1,069 people.

Jones said some Rexnord workers hold out hope that a Carrier-style reversal might also happen at Rexnord. “There’s still folks out there that have faith in President Trump that he’s going to come in and get [the plant shutdown] stopped," he said.

Nothing’s impossible, Jones said, but he’s not counting on this to happen.

“At this point in time, everybody needs to plan that in the next three or four months we’re not going to have any jobs here," he said.

Trump had leverage over Carrier because that company does a lot of contract work for the U.S. military, Jones said—whch isn't the case with Rexnord.

Assuming the shutdown proceeds as planned, Rexnord workers will be eligible for federal financial help. 

The U.S. Department of Labor posted on its website this week that Rexnord employees will be eligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance once they lose their jobs. 

TAA Assistance can include money for training and job-search expenses. Qualified workers age 50 and older can also receive supplemental pay if they find a new job that pays less than the one they lost.

All displaced Rexnord workers will be eligible for the benefits, whether or not they are unionized, Jones said. 


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