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Federal Mogul workers say they got a raw deal

The Federal Mogul friction products plant on Papermill Drive in Winchester is slated to close in March. Sally Voth/Daily

By Sally Voth

United Auto Workers Local 149 President Burke Justice faces the uncertainty of unemployment looming on the horizon.

He and about 125 fellow workers at the Federal Mogul friction plant on Papermill Road in Winchester are expected to be laid off around March. And, with most of those workers being older, that prospect is all the more frightening.

On Tuesday, Justice sat down in the UAW Local 149 hall and discussed an anonymous letter sent by a co-worker to the Daily.

That letter says that employees are angry with the "tiny" severance package being offered, that their jobs are being moved to a Federal Mogul plant in Juarez, Mexico, and that Winchester employees would be asked to train Mexican workers coming up to the plant from that facility.

Justice said the majority of the letter was accurate.

He said union leaders were told about the imminent closure about 15 minutes before the rest of the plant in June.

"They said there wasn't anything we could've done to change it, and due to economic conditions, they were moving the product out of the country," Justice said. "Part of our product's going to China. The other part's going to Mexico."

A little bit of the work -- the Winchester plant makes mostly heavy-duty brake shoes and pads -- would go to another Federal Mogul site in Glasgow, Ky., he added.

However, according to Federal Mogul corporate communications director Jim Burke, all of the Winchester work is staying stateside.

"Their work's actually being transferred to our friction manufacturing facility in Glasgow, Ky.," he said.

Union President Justice said the Juarez workers are at the Papermill Road plant -- where nearly all the workers are unionized -- this week.

"They wanted us to train them," he said. "We said no. They brought them in anyway. We were told this was an upper-level management decision. It wasn't a local level management decision.

"It was like a slap in the face, or worse. Here they are, taking our livelihood and sending it someplace else, and yet they want us to train those people to do what we have learned over the past 30 or 35 years, depending on who you're talking to and how long they've been there."

He has worked at the plant, which has had several owners, since 1987, and said Federal Mogul bought it from Cooper Industries in 1996. At one point, there were about 1,000 people in various departments, Justice said.

Production worker Phillip Pugh is the union chapter's vice president.

"I think it's sad that America's been suffering for years, that our work's been going overseas just so that the rich can get richer and the poor get poorer," he said.

"Basically, it's corporate greed," Justice agreed.

The union's been told Federal Mogul's goal is to shut down the plant by the end of March.

"They were supposed to lay off some people this month, but they pushed that back," Justice said.

Instead, about 10-20 workers are going to keep their jobs till Jan. 11, he said.

"They've got work coming in," Justice said. "They got all kinds of work coming in."

Even with shipping costs, Chinese workers' wages are low enough that the product only costs about half what it does in the U.S. to manufacture, he said.

"We're by no means getting paid high-dollar wages," Justice said. "We haven't taken a raise in 10 years. We've given back [some] of our insurance [benefits]."

Plant operator pay is $17.06 an hour, he said.

"The biggest problem is we are an older plant," according to Justice. "I think the average age of the person in there is like 58, so we're really at the point in our lives where we're too old for people to want us, to take us and to retrain us and stuff. At the same time, we're too young to retire."

Past union president Rick Rodeheaver, who retired in 2010 after 37 years at the plant, agreed on the dilemma faced by employees.

"When you're 56 and 58-years-old, you're looking forward to retirement," he said. "You're not looking forward to going out and getting another job. Yeah, you're going to have difficulties. You haven't kept up with the way things have gone in the industry. It's rough."

A government retraining program for employees whose jobs have gone overseas will be available to workers, said Justice, who added local managers have done a good job of getting that information to employees.

Like the anonymous letter writer, Justice -- who said he wasn't its author -- feels not enough is being offered to employees.

"[The company representative] made it quite clear to us as far as Federal Mogul is concerned, we got a paycheck at the end of each week, [and] that's what we were owed," he said.

An incentive was offered to keep employees at the plant before it closes, Justice added.

"They told us it was generous," he said. "I didn't think it was too damn generous."

Rodeheaver added, "I think the industry [standard] now is two weeks' pay for every year of service, and it's way off that."

Years ago, though, the union got it put into members' contracts that if they had reached a certain age and certain years of experience, they'd be paid their retirement if the plant closed down, Justice said, and that is part of the closing agreement. But, that's part of the severance package, he said.

"A good number" of employees will receive their retirement, Justice said.

He admits he has "no clue" what he'll do come March.

"I will be like the rest of them, out there looking for a job," he said. "I will be 60 by the time they throw me out probably, or right at it. It's just a sad state of affairs when they call for trade with other countries [that calls for] us having to go down to their wage so that we can compete. There's a lot of angry people in there."

Jim Burke, the manufacturer's communications director, said he didn't have specifics on what was being offered to workers.

"We work very hard to maintain our manufacturing global locations that can best serve our customers and serve the shareholders of the company," he said Tuesday. "We do maintain a pretty extensive manufacturing base throughout North America. We have experienced significant over-capacity on a global basis for brake friction products, which necessitated the closure of the Winchester facility. Certainly, we're sensitive to the concerns of the employees. We're maintaining dialogue with the local union and are working to keep the employees informed, and resolve matters as best we can."

Burke said there are 22 Federal Mogul facilities in the U.S. According to the company's website, there are two plants in Canada, 10 in Mexico, 14 in Germany, 11 in France, 11 in China, nine in India, seven in Italy and dozens more throughout Europe, Africa, South America and Asia.

Federal Mogul is experiencing "tremendous price pressure" with other countries, particularly India and China, exporting cheaper products to the U.S., Burke said. Additionally, in the next five years brake components will be required to have lower levels or zero copper, which will require capital.

"We will invest in locations where our global growth markets are driving stronger demand for the local products," Burke said.

Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137, ext. 164


A very sad article.

"We're by no means getting paid high-dollar wages," Justice said. "We haven't taken a raise in 10 years. We've given back [some] of our insurance [benefits]."

I hope people paid attention to that part.

Another places where a good wage is going down to Mexico where they can pay just a fraction of what they pay workers here. And, sadly, the anti union Republicans continue to bash unions which are responsible for the 40 hour work week, safe conditions, a living wage , benefits, etc. I feel there is a great jealously is America. Most anti union folks comment that they do not recieve such good treatment and any others should not either. I argue that those folks need to stand up for their rights to a good wage and benefits also. Maybe they should organize if the company is making a good profit, they are paying management excessive pay and they feel like they should have a share in that. Wake up America, as union membership falls, wages do too and there is inflation of the basic needs such as food , fuel, electricity, etc. This has all but dried up the middle class in the past 25 years.

I know these people work very hard....always have. They have put up with so much over the years. The situation is a sad one. I wish them all the best of luck.

Tell the company that before they leave the entire factory site has to be asbestos free and watch how fast they change their mind about relocating.

username must know the real deal. yep rub your pockets Mogul.

Another example of a Union running a place into the ground! American greed, people always wanting more more more! So what no raise in 10 years.. at $ 17.00 dollars an hour start out pay that's almost $ 36 grand a year! Some teachers local don't even start out that much! You could fill that factory up paying people ten bucks an hour and save local jobs. People are doing it now and staying and living decent.. look at Home Depot and all the other local factories, most pay 9 to 10 an hour, and people are getting by. Just like the U.S. Auto industry ,, unions kept driving wages up, things got out of hand and next thing you know these guys were making 40 bucks an hour! No education outside of Highschool , this wage is just crazy...

Let's not forget the bonuses these execs will get for doing this too!

Use to be the Democraps would be all over this, but they have gone the way of the Rebloodicans. The only way to tell the two parties apart nowadays is to find out what extremist one is. We need a third party for sure and get rid of these career politicians. We need ordinary folks in there who care about the common folk. Last time I checked ordinary folk aren't worth millions, have a good work ethic and have a hard time making ends meet. Don't know of any politicians fitting that bill today...

At va marine, the republican agenda for the last 30 years appears to be working. The American middle class shouldn't exist. If you haven't gone in debt 100k for an education you shouldn't expect to be able to buy a house and raise a family. You should except your lot in life and take whatever wage and benefit the 1% feel you deserve. Before reganomics a CEO made 25% higher wages than their average employee. Now it is 500%. I hope people start to wake up. And by the way I was raised in Detroit off those union wages. I wasn't rich and I wasn't poor. I had a good life and good healthcare.

This is indeed a loss for our community. Nonetheless, the UAW official's reaction cited above is shortsighted at best, and misleading at worst.

When President Obama took over General Motors, he expropriated the bondholders and other investors and gave the money (billions) to -- guess who? The UAW.

He took tens of billions from the taxpayer, too.

No UAW official then stood up for the taxpayer. No UAW official objected to the outright theft from the people whose investments made those UAW jobs at GM possible.

Perhaps Federal Mogul realized that they, too, could be expropriated, and their company handed over to a political crony.

You wouldn't like it if some politician took your house and handed it over to a big donor, would you? Well, that's what happened when Obama handed over those GM billions to the UAW.

By the way: GM is now heavily investing that money in -- CHINA!!!

My suggestion to the Federal Mogul workers: go to your union headquarters in Detroit and demand some of that GM taxpayer money for yourselves. They're the ones who lost you your jobs.

17.00 per hour is overpaid! What world are you living in? Nowhere did anyone say that the workers only had high school educations. Wow, you sound like the typical republicans who do not think anyone should be paid a decent wage but them. Curious, how much are you paid for your work? Do you have a job? Did you go to college? By the way, it did not say that every worker started at 17.00 per hour. This is the "race to the bottom" mentality that jealousy spawned. Just because some companies, you mention Lowes, start at 9 bucks an hour, that means no one else can make any more, or demand more wages for being a skilled, hard working man. "so what no raise in 10 years" wow!! how callous! Being that gas, food, and everything else has doubled in price in 10 years, that amounts to a 100 percent cut in wages!! And I think you should ask if people making 9 dollars an hour are "getting by." How about Walmart not offering health insurance when the Walton family who owns it has as much money as 42% of the entire coutry's population! How about 5 banks control 44 percent of this country's economy? Keep voting Republican to give these folks an even bigger share of America. I am sure they work harder than the folks did at Federal Mogul (sic) and deserve it much more.

Vamarine: 9-10 dollars and getting By!! People making that and getting by are either still living with their parents or do not have a mortgage.

Just another reminder...companies moving out of the US should be penalized...taxed to the hilt. Make it a financially unsound decision to move these jobs.
My heart goes out to the employ's of this ruthless, money hungry company they have dedicated their lives to for a mere $17. an hour...and of course this is of no concern to the top 1%, can't wait to vote.

My sister worked at Federal Mogel for 16 years. I remember she had to sign a paper that released them from future health issues over the asbestos. I cannot remember the details. But I remember she was upset about it but felt she had no other choice at the time. Also the only people I know that can make it off $10.00 an hour are the Mexicans who live 15 of them in 1 house. They have new cars, nice clothes,ect. I am not putting them down, but maybe to survive in America now that is the way we are going to have to live. I was behind a lady in Food Lion recently she had packs and packs of chicken, steaks, pork chops, beef and I thought wow I wished I could buy some of that. Anyway her card would not work and the manager had to call and the lady was saying never mind I will come back but the manager said I already got it to go through and you have 200 and some dollars left for the rest of the month so I knew it was food stamps. I just kept thinking how well she would be eating and I am working and cant buy food like that. I dont know what the answer is for our country but things are bad. It took $43.00 to fill my car with gas for work. I dont go anyplace else I cant afford to. Maybe we should all quit our jobs and let the government take care of us at least we would have food.

Big picture...the last thirty years have yielded very good standard of living upgrades for all of us. Unions are o.k. when the companies have the power but when the unions get the power it's not good anymore! My significant other works for the post office and they can't fire anyone who does not cut it because of the union. Good luck to the employees of Federal Mogul.

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