Union-affiliated workers are questioning Whirlpool executives at the company's shareholders' meeting about the closure of refrigerator plants in Arkansas and Indiana.
“We wanted to ask them, face to face, why they turned their back on us, after we worked so hard to help the plant stay in business,” said USW Local 370 President Rick Nemeth, who works at the company’s Fort Smith factory. Whirlpool announced last fall that it would close the plant later this year and move production to Mexico.
The workers questioned Whirlpool CEO Jeff Fettig and the board of directors at the Chicago meeting.
Nemeth said United Steelworkers has been working with political and labor leaders in Arkansas to develop alternatives and present financial incentives to Whirlpool to keep the factory open, but the company is not interested, claiming a drop in demand for side-by-side refrigerators.
The closure affects 800 hourly employees at the facility, and an additional 700 workers in the community who are part of the plant’s supply chain.
Retired IUE-CWA member Davey Jones, who worked at the Evansville, Ind., refrigerator plant, which Whirlpool also outsourced to Mexico in 2010, presented a proposal that would require shareholder approval before payments could be made to a deceased executive's family. His plan received support from 39 percent of the shareholders and will appear on next year’s ballot.