BROOKLYN, OH (WOIO) - Governor Ted Strickland was in town Wednesday rallying with Hugo Boss workers.
The rally is in advance of Thursday's negotiations and took place outside the Hugo Boss plant on Tiedemen Road.
"Excellent I feel real good trying to save our jobs doing everything in our power to help," said Hugo Boss worker Anthony Senart.
Most workers are optimistic.
"I feel a little bit accomplished at least we're gonna sit down and talk," said Juan Chevere.
On December 29, Hugo Boss announced it would be closing its Brooklyn, Ohio manufacturing plant, its only plant in the U.S., and shipping the jobs there overseas. The company had been seeking to cut wages from about $13 per hour to less than $9 per hour. It had also been drastically cutting the hours of its workers. Right in the middle of negotiations, Hugo Boss shocked workers, union leaders, and state and local officials by announcing that it would no longer negotiate and instead would close the plant permanently.
Hugo Boss sells high-end suits - some retail for more than $1,000 - and can afford to manufacture in the United States. Their competitors make high-end suits in union factories in the U.S.
Hugo Boss' decision was not based on economic necessity. The company is profitable and growing. It spends millions on fancy ads and sports sponsorships like Davis Cup tennis, Indy Car Racing, sailing, golf and soccer.
In January, Workers United, the union representing workers at the plant, filed a federal Unfair Labor Practice charge against Hugo Boss because the company sought to circumvent its legal obligation to bargain with the union.
Last week, faced with the threat of a formal NLRB complaint, Hugo Boss retreated from its position on closing the plant and agreed to return to the bargaining table.
The National Labor Relations Board Region 8, which covers Ohio, advised Workers United and Hugo Boss that based on Region 8's investigation of the union's charges against Hugo Boss, it found merit in the union's charges. Region 8 found merit in Workers United's claim that Hugo Boss did not bargain in good faith with the union about the decision regarding closure of its plant.
The company was advised by Region 8 that a complaint would be issued against it unless the company agreed to settle the case. Hugo Boss has, apparently in response to Region 8's determination, contacted Workers United about returning to the bargaining table to negotiate about keeping the plant open.
A meeting between Workers United and Hugo Boss to resume negotiations about keeping the plant open has been set for Thursday, April 8, 2010 in Cleveland at 10:00 a.m. at the office of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
Workers United, SEIU is a union of 150,000 workers in the US and Canada who work in the manufacturing, distribution, laundry, food service, hospitality, gaming, apparel and textile industries. www.workersunitedunion.org