Word spread quickly among Acklin Stamping Co. workers Friday.
The company was preparing to cart away much of the Toledo factory's heavy machinery - and a majority of its jobs.
Just hours after the start of a customary two-week summer shutdown, unionized workers rushed back to the Nebraska Avenue plant Saturday to watch - and photograph - the move.
"When I pulled up, I saw two flatbed trucks leaving with our dies," said Kevin Lemay, an hourly employee and United Auto Workers representative. "I felt my stomach drop."
Company officials said the longtime Toledo operation will remain open, but they conceded yesterday that the workforce will be cut significantly.
The factory, owned by Ice Industries Inc., of Sylvania, produces housings for air conditioners, compressors, and small motors. The work is being transferred to a company plant in Grenada, Miss., to bring it closer to the firm's customers, most of whom are in Alabama and Mississippi, said Ice President Paul Bishop in a written statement.
But just how many jobs will be lost is in dispute.
The company statement said that 45 hourly employees, all UAW members, won't be recalled when the current shutdown ends.
But plant officials have told UAW chairman Joel McVicker that 53 or 54 workers will be furloughed, leaving just 24 hourly workers, Mr. McVicker said yesterday.
The company didn't provide a 60-day notice required in mass layoffs under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. Acklin is exempt because its workforce is smaller than 90 and the layoff involves fewer than 50 people, said Mr. Bishop.
Executives informed UAW representatives at the plant of the move Friday afternoon at the end of the last shift before the summer shutdown.
"They told us that, effective immediately, they were locking the gates until they got the machinery out of there," said Mr. McVicker. "They would notify people by mail who would still have a job and who would be gone."
Company officials said they didn't provide a longer warning because of fears of sabotage, union officials said.
Bruce Baumhower, president of UAW Local 12, expressed anger of the layoffs. He said that owner Howard Ice received economic development assistance from the city of Toledo and FirstEnergy to buy Acklin Stamping in the late 1990s.
The union leader expressed skepticism about the firm's claim that it doesn't have enough nearby customers. Ice Industries last year received a $24 million contract from DaimlerChrysler AG to produce parts for Toledo-built Jeeps using presses purchased from the car maker. It is producing those parts in Mason, Ohio, near Dayton.
"He built this company in Toledo with assistance from the city and FirstEnergy," Mr. Baumhower said. "He has acquired dies from DaimlerChrysler to make parts for Jeep, and this plant should be fully utilized."
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