Ohio Local Campaigns to Save Hoover Vacuum Cleaner Plant
December 6, 2006
Members of IBEW Local 1985 at a 1,000-worker manufacturing facility in Ohio producing Hoover brand vacuum cleaners are waging a multi-faceted campaign to save their jobs, as the parent Whirlpool Corporation seeks buyers for its world-famous vacuum division.
Refusing to join the swath of destruction that has ripped through the state’s manufacturing sector, the North Canton local – located about an hour’s drive from Cleveland -- has hired financial consultants to investigate worker ownership and called on newly-elected political leaders for support.
On Friday, December 1, Local 1985 President Jim Repace, joined Governor-elect Ted Strickland, Attorney General-elect Marc Dann and other political leaders at a meeting with Whirlpool executives followed by a tour of the plant. Senator-elect Sherrod Brown was scheduled to attend, but had to cancel due to an emergency; he sent a representative who read a very strong statement of support.
Speaking to the fears of IBEW members that a new buyer could export their jobs to Asia or to Hoover’s existing plants in Mexico, Strickland said, “We’ll work with the new ownership to do all we can to see that jobs remain here.” Meeting with union members, Strickland praised labor organizations for displaying the U.S. flag in their halls and opening their meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance. “Such a custom should occur in the board rooms around the country,” he said, to loud applause.
In the Spring of 2005, as rumors of a sale spread, the local immediately sought help from the Ohio Employee Ownership Center and the City of North Canton. The local retained financial advisors to help make the union’s case for keeping the plant open to executives of Maytag, Hoover’s former owner
Local 1985 welcomed the news last summer that Whirlpool was purchasing the vacuum cleaner plant from Maytag which purchased the plant in 1989 from Chicago Pacific. While the local had a decent relationship with Maytag for many years, things had deteriorated as the company outsourced production to El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico and then announced plans to sell off the facility.
“This community witnessed the near destruction of one of the world’s most recognized brand names, going back to 1908, as the gentlemen and ladies at Maytag’s corporate headquarters in Newton, Iowa gradually picked us apart,” says Jim Repace, president of Local 1985. “It was a crime and needs to be stopped.”
Since Whirlpool’s May announcement that it planned to follow Maytag’s lead in selling Hoover, the local’s advisors have informed all prospective buyers of the union’s intention to work as partners with future owners to rebuild the company.
Currently, 800 IBEW members are working at Hoover; about 170 are on layoff.
“Our goal is not to become a statistic,” says Jim Repace. “Our goal is to become a model. We want to show that American manufacturing is alive and well. We want to keep jobs here.”
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