UAW: Master Lock to shut down Milwaukee location

UAW: Master Lock to shut down Milwaukee location

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Master Lock is planning to shut down their Milwaukee location in March of 2024. The decision affects 362 union workers.

Master Lock employees that spoke with CBS 58 said they were caught off guard by the closure announcement.

"It's just kind of unfair that they just dropped a bomb on us like that," said Eddie Lofton, a Master Lock employee and UAW Local #469 member.

"You come here thinking you have security, because you look at a place that's been ran 100 years, and you don't think that it'll ever close," said Yolanda Nathan, the newly elected president of UAW Local #469.

A corporate spokesperson said Master Lock will fully transition manufacturing to other North American and global operations, while leaning on external suppliers.

"Everybody in there, from management on down to the last person are done," Lofton said.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson said he is disappointed and wasn't directly made aware of the decision.

"When you talk about the economy of Wisconsin, manufacturing is a key component of that, and Master Lock is pulling the rug out from under these employees," Johnson said.

UAW Local #469 president, Yolanda Nathan, said the plant workers felt like family, and she was counting on the business following her to retirement.

"I've been here 20 years. It's like half of my life. So, I'm just starting, trying to wrap my head around what's next," Nathan said. "I don't want to feel this pain. This is like a breakup, and I don't want to experience this ever again."

A company spokesperson released the following statement on the closure Thursday:

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.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson released the following statement following the news: 

“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.

Less than a decade ago, Master Lock invited President Barack Obama to this same facility to celebrate the in-shoring of jobs. Now, the company is going in the opposite direction, defying the trend of growing manufacturing jobs in the United States.

As of this morning, Fortune Brands has not reached out to me, and I have heard no logical explanation for their actions.”
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