LAWRENCE, MA – The following is the statement of Warren Pepicelli, Manager of the New England Joint Board UNITE HERE, the union representing nearly 350 workers employed by Polartec, LLC following the company’s decision to move manufacturing out of Lawrence.
“In 1995 the world’s eye was focused on Lawrence and the CEO who put people before profits. The story of the devastating Malden Mills fire and Aaron Feuerstein’s generosity in paying workers for months while he rebuilt, is now legend. Now, exactly 20 years to the day, Polartec is walking away from that legacy and from its nearly 350 workers.
Polartec’s recent announcement, just in time for the holiday season, is shocking, outraging, and devastating to our members and the city of Lawrence. This move comes months after Polartec’s purchase of a factory in Tennessee and the layoff of nearly 90 workers. At the time, we were told that this layoff was seasonal and that the Tennessee factory would only compliment operations in Lawrence. In the ensuing weeks however, we watched as machinery was moved out of Lawrence and shipped to Tennessee. We wondered how this could be a good thing for Lawrence and pressed the company to be honest with their intentions. We now know with clarity that Polartec is joining the crowded ranks of cowardly corporate lions that have abandoned workers by shipping jobs out of Lawrence.
This news is especially unsettling considering that long after the fire it was Polartec’s new private equity owners, Versa Capital, that demanded a series of major union concessions telling us they were necessary to keep the company alive. We worked hard to save hundreds of jobs in the city and do not regret our decision. But what we’ve come to find out is that the company, inheritors of the Malden Mills legacy of generosity and compassion, is ultimately motivated by the same corporate greed and lust for profit we’ve come to know all too well.
We refuse to accept the loss that this represents to the City of Lawrence, a city that so desperately needs good family sustaining jobs. We will not stand by as one of the last textile employers abandons a city made world famous in 1912 by brave textile workers standing up for justice. We pledge to do what is necessary to protect our members and the City of Lawrence.”