Remington Arms Will Furlough Many Employees This Summer

Remington Arms will furlough up to 500 employees at its Illion, NY plant and up to 199 employees at its Huntsville, AL plant this summer. The upaid furlough will be from June 3rd until August 2nd.  The Ilion plant was already scheduled to be scheduled for a maintenance shutdown for the first two weeks of July and employees are getting paid leave for that time.

Ilion Mayor Brian Lamica had this to say to the Utica Observer-Dispatch:

Ilion Mayor Brian Lamica received word of the layoffs Tuesday. He was told that one of the product lines, employing about 280 people, will continue to run through the summer, but the rest will be idled.

“During that period there’s a normal two-week shutdown. That will be a paid vacation period for those who have paid vacation,” Lamica added.

He noted that Remington is planning to bring back the entire workforce Aug. 9.

“It’s not good,” Lamica commented of the move. “I’m optimistic things will pick up for them come early fall and everybody will be back to work. Two weeks is one thing, but two months — even though two weeks would be paid — I feel sorry for the workers and their families.”

The furlough could result in some workers leaving the area to find another job, the mayor said.

“I’ve been hearing rumors for about two weeks. I was hoping things would turn around. There’s too much in the warehouse and not enough being bought,” Lamica said.

According to the Rome (NY) Sentinel, no notice was given to the NY State Department of Labor as may be required under the New York State Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. However, in Alabama, the Department of Commerce did receive notice and has said it will work to help the impacted employees.

No stories have detailed which product assembly lines will be affected by the furloughs.

Chuck Lester of the Village of Illion Board of Trustees was interviewed by Utica WIBX Radio and had more details in the video recording of it below.

No One Should Be Surprised By This Remington Move

In the wake of both softening sales for firearms and the move of much of their operations to Huntsville, Alabama, Remington announced another round of layoffs at their Ilion, New York plant. 105 jobs will be cut at the New York plant starting Monday. This is in addition to 80 jobs that had previously been moved to Alabama.

As the later news report below makes clear, these workers will have the opportunity to relocate to Alabama and apply for jobs down there. If I heard it correctly, Remington has agreed to give a preference to the pool of laid-off workers for new jobs in Alabama.

Some Thoughts About Remington, Jobs, And Its Union

I will be the first to admit I don’t know much about the inner workings of unions. I was born and bred in North Carolina which is both a right-to-work state and the least unionized state in the nation. While I have and have had relatives who were union members in the North, I’ve never worked in a job that lent itself to unionization.

Yesterday I received a very perceptive and enlightening email regarding Remington, jobs, and unions. The person who sent it to me is very well versed in the inner workings of unions but prefers no attribution and to remain anonymous.

The first point he made is that Remington Outdoor Company will say nothing about moving jobs from Ilion to Huntsville for a couple of reasons. First, anything that Remington says that could be interpreted as coercion or related to bargaining would likely lead to serious charges brought by the National Labor Relations Board. The second reason is that Remington’s contract with UMW Local 717 could very well contain language or clauses that would lead to automatic unionization of the Huntsville facility. This is referred to as successor language.

The second point he made is that without successor language, it doesn’t look good for union representation in the South especially given the loss at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga. Interestingly enough, Alabama has the highest unionization rate of any Southern state.

Remington has a large operation in Ilion and it won’t be easy to move. But given time, you will start to see operations begin to move South. It is my understanding that R&D is already slated to move to Huntsville. The city, by the way, is also home to the Redstone Arsenal which has as one of its component organizations that Army Material Command as well as a number of Ordnance Corps units. If the Republicans take control of the US Senate, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is the 3rd ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and could easily get the ear of the DoD for Remington.

I was able to look at an earlier collective bargaining agreement between Local 717 and Remington. While I did not find successor language in it, I did see language that mandated certain models produced by Remington must be made in Ilion. Article II- Scope and Coverage, Section g – Job Security says that products such as the Remington Model 7, 700, 7400, and 7600 rifles and the Remington Model 870, 1100, and 1187 shotguns “will continued to be produced only at the Ilion plant”. It did allow for Remington to procure component parts elsewhere. This contract expired in 2007 and I can’t imagine succeeding contracts not containing similar language.

The current contract was ratified in December 2012. The highlights of the contract as publicized by the United Mine Workers of America HQ include:

The new pact includes a provision extending Local 717 jurisdiction to any new plant that Remington builds, as the company is presently considering, within a 100-mile radius of the main plant in Ilion, N.Y. In addition to a $500 signing bonus, the contract features 3 percent wage increases in each of the first four years, and 3.5 percent in the final year. It also maintains the current level of medical benefits, improves the language governing overtime and creates a new position, Utility Specialist, aimed at reducing the reassignment of regular workers.

This contract was ratified two days before the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. They could not have imagined the NY SAFE Act when the collective bargaining agreement was ratified. If this contract contained the same earlier language as to what models would be produced at the Ilion plant, you have to wonder if it extended to the Bushmaster AR-15s whose production had been shifted from Windham, Maine to Ilion. It is hard to conceive that a company would want to take the chance of producing a firearm in a state where it couldn’t be sold.

To sum it all up, while Remington’s current contract with Local 717 may preclude the rapid transfer of existing production lines from Ilion to Huntsville, production will start shifting South over time.

The Effects Of The NY SAFE Act Coming Home To Roost

The backers of the New York SAFE Act said the law would make New Yorkers safer. About the only thing I can see that it has done is to cost good, hard working New Yorkers their jobs.

This view is shared by Fran Madore, President of United Mine Workers Local 717. The union represents the overwhelming majority of the workers at Remington’s Ilion, New York plant.

A union official said Saturday the Remington Arms Co.’s decision to open a manufacturing plant in Alabama does not bode well for Ilion, and he’s blaming New York’s SAFE Act restrictions on assault weapons.

“It can’t be good,” said Fran Madore, president of United Mine Workers Local 717, which represents 1,180 of the 1,300 Remington employees in Ilion. “How can it be good?”

Madore said plant officials told him they wanted to meet with him Monday. They did not say what they wanted to talk about, but Madore said he assumes it will be about the company’s reported plans to open a 500,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Huntsville, Ala.

In his interview with the Syracuse Post-Standard, Madore goes on to say that the NY SAFE Act crippled them and that he is worried that jobs will lost in Ilion.

I think Mr. Madore has good reason to be worried.

This Doesn’t Make Sense To Me

The Wall Street Journal is reporting this morning that Remington Arms is planning to invest $20 million in an upgrade to its Ilion, New York plant. The news comes from local politicians who had a meeting on Wednesday with the company.

Local media outlets report that three senators and three Assembly
members met with Remington officials on Wednesday to discuss what they
could do to ensure the company keeps its plant in the Herkimer County
village of Ilion, where Remington employs about 1,200 people.

The report goes on to say that Remington themselves has no comment on the news.

Local news station WKTV Utica has more on the story. The story of the meeting of the New York legislators with senior officials from Remington Arms was the lead story on their evening broadcast.

The senior officials involved were Otto Weigl, senior vice president government and legislative affairs,
Jonathan Sprole, general counsel, and Paul Merz, Ilion plant manager. This meeting is balanced out by a meeting between Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) and Freedom Group CEO George Kollitides in Austin, Texas. Perry tweeted a picture of himself with Kollitides while holding what appears to be a Remington Defense AR-15 and wearing a Remington jacket on March 1st.

As I said in the headline, it doesn’t make sense for Remington to invest money in plant and equipment upgrades to the Ilion plant given the NY SAFE law and the anti-gun fervor of New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo. That said, it could be used as a bargaining chip with the industrial and economic development teams of other states that are seeking to have the plant move to their state.

The reality is that it isn’t easy to relocate a plant of the size of the Remington plant in Ilion. While building a new plant in another state or moving the machinery wouldn’t be hard,  it would be hard to replicate the workforce. I could see Remington moving the AR, pistol, and semi-auto rifle production out of that plant and leaving the shotgun and bolt-action rifle manufacturing there. In a way that would make sense as the pistol production could be shifted to the Para USA plant in North Carolina and the AR and other semi-auto production could go to a new plant anywhere.

As with all of these things, we’ll see.

Oh, The Irony!

In the little Mohawk Valley village of Ilion (population 8,053) sits the nation’s oldest continuously operated arms manufacturer Remington Arms. It employs over 1,300 well-paid and talented workers in a region that has seen over 11,000 manufacturing jobs lost since 1990.

The village had a town meeting in January before the vote on the NY-SAFE Act. As you can well imagine, their concern was over jobs and not gun control.

The NY-SAFE bill was enacted into law and the concerns over jobs was ignored.

So it should come as no surprise that a number of states have contacted the Freedom Group about moving their Remington Arms plant to a state that is more appreciative of gun rights and gun manufacturing jobs.

At least five states have contacted the parent company of Remington Arms to encourage the gun manufacturer to relocate in response to New York’s new, tougher gun control laws.

Lawmakers from Michigan, South Carolina, Arizona and Oklahoma have all sent letters to Remington’s owner, Freedom Group, since the state Legislature passed tougher gun control legislation two weeks ago. Texas first contacted the company in November 2012.

While North Carolina isn’t mentioned in that list, I would be surprised if officials from the state’s economic development office haven’t already trekked to Madison, NC to speak with Freedom Group executives about relocation. If they haven’t, they are being derelict in their duties.

Mohawk Valley economic development officials and politicians are taking these contacts very seriously. Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford) called fears that Remington might relocate “realistic” while Herkimer County IDA Executive Director Mark Feane said they are very concerned given the incentives that other states might offer.

No one knows at this time what the Freedom Group will do. However, if they do move the Remington Ilion plant, I would find it deliciously ironic if the trucks moving the plant’s machinery just happened to detour around the Governor’s Mansion and the New York Capitol Building on their way out of state. It might lengthen the journey by a few hours but it would be worth it to remind politicians about the law of unintended consequences.