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Master Lock closing Milwaukee manufacturing plant; mayor says 'slap in the face'

The union tells TMJ4 News it means hundreds of workers will be out of a job.
Barack Obama, Joyce Fowler
Posted at 10:06 PM, May 24, 2023

MILWAUKEE — After nearly a century in Milwaukee, Master Lock is set to shut down its manufacturing plant at 32nd and Center.

The union tells TMJ4 News it means hundreds of workers will be out of a job.

United Auto Workers (UAW) Local Chapter President Mike Bink confirmed in a phone call with TMJ4's Mariam Mackar that Master Lock employees were told Wednesday afternoon that they will only have a job until the fall. Master Lock confirmed the news Thursday morning.

According to the union, Master Lock told employees that they will stay employed until October and operations will completely ramp down by March. That is 330 jobs lost.

TMJ4 News reached out to the Master Lock company for comment. Here's their response:

Today, The Master Lock Company made the difficult decision to close our Milwaukee, Wisconsin, operations in March 2024. As part of this decision, the company will fully transition its manufacturing capability from the Milwaukee plant to our other North American and global manufacturing operations as well as external suppliers. In addition to optimizing our own resources, Master Lock’s external supplier capabilities have advanced significantly and have demonstrated the ability to achieve exceptional quality and service which will collectively benefit our stakeholders.

This decision is not a reflection of the skills, performance or commitment of the Milwaukee workforce, and it was not made lightly. Rather, this is an opportunity to continue to enhance our supply chain resilience, maximize potential growth of the business and maintain our competitiveness into the future.

Though the transition will take an extended period of time and the plant will not close until the end of March 2024, we wanted to provide as much advanced notice as possible to our associates. The company is committed to helping all of its displaced workers throughout the process by working closely with UAW Local #469 during effects bargaining to ensure a smooth transition.

We want to express our deepest gratitude to our entire Milwaukee team and the greater Milwaukee community for their dedication and commitment to the company.

The union's local chapter says they are shocked by the decision.

Master Lock was founded 102 years ago in Milwaukee. The UAW says the facility on 32nd and Center is one of the last manufacturing companies standing in Milwaukee.

Members of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council said they are standing in solidarity with the workers at Master Lock. In a Facebook post, they said, "This corporate disregard for workers and for our community is a huge blow."

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson issued a statement regarding the closure, saying in part, "I am enormously disappointed by the impending closure of the Master Lock facility. It is a slap in the face to the hardworking Milwaukee employees. They certainly deserve greater respect and appreciation from their company."

Johnson went on to say he has not heard from the company and has not heard a "logical explanation for their actions.”

A decade ago, then-President Obama visited the plant. At that time, he praised the company for bringing manufacturing jobs back to America. President Obama even highlighted Master Lock's "Made in America" products in Milwaukee during his 2012 State of the Union speech, a message he echoed during his visit.

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