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Latest News - September 2011

September 7, 2011
Weather Shield Permanently Closes Park Falls Plant
Source: Ashland current
By: Ron Brochu

Weather Shield Inc. has announced plans to permanently shutter its Park Falls manufacturing plant, where 158 employees have been laid off for nine months.

The layoff was announced last December, when plant manager Pat Henrichs told state officials the job losses were expected to be permanent as of Jan. 31.
"The building industry and our overall economy have seen several downturns in the last few years," said a December news release issued by the parent company, Schield Family Brands. "As a custom built window and door manufacturer, the Schield Family Brands has had to consolidate production capacity to match market demand."

The layoff notice came four months after the plant’s employees voted to affiliate with the Teamsters Union, sparking some to believe that retribution was involved.

"That's probably the perception in Park Falls, but because they shifted the work to the unionized Mosinee plant, that's probably not the case," Rick Skutak, business agent with Mosinee-based Teamsters Local 662, said Tuesday. Weather Shield's Mosinee plant is affiliated with the carpenter's union.

The latest announcement “is a devastating blow to these workers who lose their job through no fault of their own, and state officials must do everything we can to make sure that the workers and their families get the assistance they need to pay their bills and get the training necessary to get new jobs,” State Sen. Bob Jauch said Tuesday in a prepared statement.

The Northwest Wisconsin Workforce Investment Board has been working with area technical colleges, the Northwest Wisconsin Concentrated Employment Program and relevant state agencies to re-employ displaced workers.

Jauch said he has contacted the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., urging the agency to work with local leaders to find ways to help the community’s economy recovery.

“Helping the workers receive the training they need to get new jobs is only part of the solution. We also need to make sure this community has the resources it needs to create new jobs and economic opportunities for those workers,” Jauch said.

The Park Falls facility has manufactured patio and entry doors for the past nine years. Some assembly lines were transferred to the company's Mosinee facility "to establish more streamlined and cost effective production," Schield Family Brands said.

But an Aug. 23, 2010, Teamsters press release suggested additional issues may have been at play in Park Falls.

“These workers have taken a 20 percent pay cut; they’ve had the company take away nine holidays, their 401(k) match and their boot allowance,” Skutak said a year ago.

In the same press release, Bob Meinholz, a final frame assembler at the facility, said his co-workers were not pleased with an initial 10 percent pay cut, but given a poor economy, accepted the financial sacrifice to help out their employer. The 20-percent pay reduction and elimination of most benefits, however, led the workers to seek Teamster representation, he said.

Weather Shield also has plants in Medford, Greenwood and Ladysmith in Wisconsin and in Logan, Utah. The Shield family also owns the Peachtree, Vetter, Crestline and Visions brands.



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