Growing and strengthening west Michigan's middle class
GRAND RAPIDS February 3, 2016– It was reported last month that Dematic North America was considering laying off over 300 union members at its Plymouth Road facility in Grand Rapids and moving their jobs to Mexico in order to cut costs.
Yesterday, those 300 employees, members of UAW Local 1485, found out the company had decided to move their jobs to Mexico by the end of September. The company made its announcement in a memo posted on a company bulletin board.
After several meetings with executives of Dematic North America, members of the United Auto Workers Local 1485 concluded they had no response to the company’s threat to move 300 manufacturing jobs to its factory in Mexico.
“When we looked up the pay rates in Monterrey, we found they were anywhere from $1.50 to $1.80 an hour,” said Scott Wahlfeldt, president of Local 1485.
“It’s really difficult for anybody here in the United States to accept wages like that. It would be illegal.”
Dematic’s 300 blue collar workers earn anywhere from $11.55 to $19.19 per hour for unskilled positions, Wahlfeldt said. Skilled positions pay up to $24.26 an hour, he said.
Last Friday, some 230 members of the union met to hear the latest news from the company and voted unanimously not to send an offer, Wahlfeldt said.
Dematic announced production would begin to move in the coming weeks and months and would be complete by September. The company designs and builds automated systems for warehouses, distribution centers and other sites with material-moving needs.
“The relocation of manufacturing activities will impact approximately 300 positions in fabrication, assembly, warehouse, and plant administration,” the announcement said.
“This decision does not affect the more than 900 Grand Rapids positions in sales, engineering, research and development, solution development, customer service, and administration.”
Wahlfeldt said the blue collar workforce ranges from veterans with decades of experience to young workers who were hired within the past two years. Wahlfeldt said he has worked for the company “on and off, with layoffs, for 16 years.”
Based in Atlanta, Dematic North America is the largest division of the Luxembourg-based company Dematic Group. Dematic’s factory at the corner of Plymouth Road and Michigan Street NE has been a fixture in the Grand Rapids manufacturing scene for more than 75 years.