LOWELL, MA – Today, Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-03), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) sent a letter to Brooks Brothers Group, Inc. Chairman and CEO Claudio Del Vecchio requesting that the company provide fair severance to the 413 employees set to be laid off at the company’s Southwick facility in the coming weeks.
“It is our understanding that, on July 7th, Local 187 presented its request for severance and health coverage to the company’s negotiator,” the lawmakers wrote. “However, the negotiator rejected any severance benefits and offered only health care coverage until Southwick’s closure. Notably, employees at other closing facilities will, according to reports, receive severance.”
“While we recognize that the decision to close the Southwick worksite is due to financial challenges exacerbated by COVID-19, it would be an extraordinary betrayal of the company’s loyal employees to deny any severance or extension of health care coverage. Indeed, some employees have produced garments at Southwick for decades – including, most recently, sewing masks to protect the public,” the lawmakers continued.
On May 15th, Brooks Brothers issued a WARN Act notice that their manufacturing facility in Haverhill would be closing permanently in late July due to financial constraints caused by the coronavirus pandemic. This decision will lead to the termination of 413 employees, many of them members of UNITE HERE Local 187.
On Tuesday, Local 187 submitted its request for severance and health coverage to the negotiator representing Brooks Brothers. The negotiator rejected any form of severance benefits, choosing to offer only health coverage through the closing date of the Southwick facility. According to the New England Joint Board of UNITE HERE, this decision will make the Haverhill facility the only one in the country to not provide severance for laid off employees. Brooks Brothers filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday.
“We ask that you reconsider the decision to deny aid to those who helped build the company’s brand,” the lawmakers requested.
The lawmakers also offered to discuss the situation with Mr. Del Vecchio at his earliest convenience.
"This a huge loss not just for our 400 members who are being thrown onto the street with nothing but also for the culture of American garment manufacturing that our members cultivated for generations here in Massachusetts,” said Warren Pepicelli, Manager and International Executive Vice President of the New England Joint Board of UNITE HERE. “When Brooks Brothers bought the Southwick factory in 2007 our members made sacrifices to convince them to keep the work in Massachusetts. When the pandemic hit, our members courageously went back to work making masks despite their fears. Over the years our members have worked against the odds to preserve their craft amidst globalization, automation, and economic downturns. This is how they're repaid. When companies like Brooks Brothers treat workers and our communities like this we must fight back."
A copy of the letter can be accessed HERE.