Maker of Chicago School Equipment Threatens Mass Layoff

Teamsters Seek Public Support Friday to Save Manufacturing Jobs

Jul 10, 2014, 14:48 ET from Teamsters Local 743

CHICAGO, July 10, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Teamsters Union will rally on Chicago's West Side Friday against mass layoffs proposed by the city's last major manufacturer of public school equipment.

Teamsters Local 743 represents 76 Hispanic and Spanish-speaking workers at Midwest Folding Products, makers of school cafeteria and folding tables. The company, owned by HNI (NYSE: HNI), North America's second largest office supply manufacturer, has threatened to shutter its Chicago plant and relocate to Texas.

Midwest Folding has made equipment for Chicago Public Schools and other major clients since 1947.

"The Teamsters are urging the public to come out on Friday and join workers in petitioning the company to save these jobs," said Debra Simmons-Peterson, President of Local 743. "Time and again we talk about the importance of saving manufacturing jobs in our communities, only now we have a chance to actually make a difference. Chicago families depend on these kinds of good-paying jobs. We can't let them just disappear."

Midwest Folding has seen very little turnover in its 67 years in Chicago. The average worker today has more than 22 years of service with the company.

Local 743 was notified of the company's potential closure on June 25. By July 1, the Teamsters submitted two proposals to corporate managers to protect workers' rights. The first proposal requested the company meet with union representatives and the City of Chicago's Economic Development Department to explore available economic incentives to keep the manufacturing plant in Chicago.

Midwest Folding's management declined to participate in the meeting.

The Teamsters' second proposal sought severance packages for all workers, including one month's pay upon closure for each year of service, compensation for earned vacation time, continued medical coverage and unemployment insurance eligibility. Again, the company rejected the offer.

"Between the union and the company, we've gotten good benefits over the years," said Alfredo Valdez, a 25-year veteran employee. "It's sad now. It's upsetting that the relationship with the company may come to an end like this after so long."

Although Midwest Folding has tentatively agreed to meet with the Teamsters on Aug. 6-7 to discuss the future of the company, management remains unwilling to negotiate severance packages for workers. In the meantime, Midwest Folding notified Local 743 it expects to close its doors for good in Chicago by Oct. 31.

WHAT: Teamsters Rally to Save Manufacturing Jobs

WHEN: 2:30 p.m., Friday, July 11, 2014

WHERE: Midwest Folding Products, 1414 S. Western Ave., Chicago, IL

Teamsters Local 743 represents more than 10,000 hardworking men and women in Chicago's manufacturing, health care, clerical, mail-order and professional industries.

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SOURCE Teamsters Local 743