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Milwaukee: Union workers at Master Lock rally to save their jobs

By Ryan Hamann

Workers and supporters picket outside the Milwaukee Master Lock facility after n

Milwaukee, WI – On the afternoon of May 31, nearly 100 union members and their supporters gathered outside the entrance to the Master Lock factory on Milwaukee’s North Side to call on the company to keep the plant open. The rally came in response to a sudden announcement that the shop was going to be closed, a course of action that will leave more than 400 people out of work. A number of other unions were represented by the different participants at the rally and picket, including United Steel Workers, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, and others.

Master Lock, where workers are represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW) Region 4, Local 469, is one of the only remaining well-paying union jobs available to people living on the North Side, home to Milwaukee’s historically Black community. The area has been hit hard by the same deindustrialization over the last several decades that can be seen in other Midwestern cities like Detroit and Flint in Michigan and Gary, Indiana, among other places.

“The company was doing just fine the week before the announcement. Our plant was the top producing and delivering facility in the company. To be told that wasn’t good enough, it was devastating,” said Yolanda Nathan, president of UAW Local 469. “We plan to do everything we can to keep our jobs here, and if we’re unable to do it, we’re going to fight to get the best deal for our members.”

A prominent theme among the workers on the picket line was that as things stand, they’re losing all of their benefits, including healthcare, and that there’s been a lack of transparency from the company. Others commented on the fact that the workers and the jobs at the facility have been intimately tied to the surrounding community. Union members have led food and clothing drives and trash clean-up initiatives. With the factory closing down, an important part of the community is being lost.

“It’s not just us fighting for us, the employees; we’re fighting for the community,” Nathan said.

The company currently intends to cease operations at the facility in March of 2024. The union will fight until the end.

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