Hufcor workers battle private equity owner with shame ad in Los Angeles Times
The labor union that represents workers at Janesville’s Hufcor factory is now pressuring Hufcor owner OpenGate Capital with a shame campaign that is playing out in Los Angeles, OpenGate’s corporate home city.
The Industrial Division of the Communication Workers of America paid to publish an open letter to OpenGate Capital CEO Andrew Nikou in an advertisement that printed Wednesday in the Los Angeles Times.
The union represents about 160 workers in Janesville whose jobs are at stake as OpenGate, a private equity firm, plans to idle Hufcor’s Janesville plant and move manufacturing of moveable door systems to Monterrey, Mexico, later this year.
The ad in the L.A. Times is the latest move by the union and a group of Wisconsin labor advocates to bring wider attention to the factory jobs OpenGate plans to start eliminating in Janesville as early as August.
The ad, titled “An Appeal for Justice,” asks OpenGate to reconsider its plan to cease production in Janesville. It is undersigned and endorsed by 36 labor advocates and Democratic Wisconsin politicians, including U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and state Sen. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville.
“We have seen that your private equity company has a track record of buying businesses—in Wisconsin and throughout America—then closing them and damaging local economies for the benefit of your investors,” the ad reads.
In public layoff filings and written statements to the media in May, OpenGate said Hufcor took a global financial hit during the COVID-19 pandemic and that is what led the company to a plan to idle the 40-year-old Janesville factory.
OpenGate previously took heat for its abrupt 2013 bankruptcy shuttering of a Golden Guernsey dairy plant in suburban Milwaukee that left plant workers locked out of the factory and forced them to wait years to receive full severance pay.
A one-time lawmaker who also signed the ad was former Democratic state Sen. Tim Cullen. Initially he said he advised the union it might be more fruitful to push OpenGate officials to travel to Janesville and arrange a sit-down with local Hufcor workers.
Hufcor is one company in a large portfolio of industries that OpenGate owns as investments.