Cequent shutting down Goshen factory

Cequent parent company TriMas gave its employees some unwelcome Thanksgiving news: Their jobs are moving to Mexico.

Posted on Nov. 21, 2012 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Nov. 21, 2012 at 6:12 p.m.

GOSHEN — Cequent Performance Products is moving out, shipping production from its Goshen plant to a facility in Reynosa, Mexico, parent company TriMas Corp. announced this afternoon, Nov. 21.

It was an unwelcome piece of Thanksgiving news for hundreds of employees of the Goshen facility, where they make hitches and structural components for RVs and trailers.

The 450 local jobs will end throughout next year, the company announced.

“They told us they made the decision and then they wished us ‘Happy Thanksgiving,’” said Deb Hathaway, vice president of steelworkers local 9550, which represents more than 350 of the 450 affected people.

“It was a very gloomy situation,” she said, and it will loom heavily on hundreds of family Thanksgiving gatherings tomorrow. “We’re all so thankful we just lost our jobs,” Hathaway said.

In a written announcement of the closing, Dave Wathen, president of Michigan-based TriMas, said, “While these types of decisions are never easy, we make them with significant consideration.”

He continued, “For those employees affected by the closure, the company is committed to working with them during this transition,” said Wathen.

It’s been a contentious process since the company announced the possibility of moving the jobs last month. The union representing most of the local employees filed a federal lawsuit against the company, the company started having police come to the plant, and earlier today production stopped due to a bomb threat.

That had workers waiting outside for about 2 1/2 hours, Hathaway said. Then company officials made the announcement just before the end of the first shift. The company did allow second-shift workers to use vacation time to take the afternoon off without forfeiting holiday pay, she said.

At the first of next year, the company will tell workers how they’ll start to eliminate departments. Hathaway expects production to move to a single shift as things ramp down.

Meanwhile, the union continues to fight the move, she said. “We’re still fighting,” hoping to push the move into 2014.

In addition to shutting down the Goshen facility, TriMas is shutting down a warehouse in Huntington.

In their written announcement of the plant closure, TriMas made it the final item in a list of seven highlights of moves the company is making “to enable continuous improvement for our customers and enhance overall TriMas’ value,” said Wathen.

The initial response from Cequent workers was that the announcement was not a surprise.

Mike Hanna, an employee of the company, noted he and some others had begun to speculate that the announcement would come Wednesday after the company declined to make an announcement Monday as planned.

“I was kind of preparing for the worst but hoping for the best,” Hanna said, saying he was at least glad the company finally gave employees an answer.

Dustin Butler, an employee of three years, echoed Hanna’s statement.

“In some sort, I’m kind of relieved,” he said. “It’s going to make everything a lot harder to make work,” Butler added, noting he and his girlfriend, Debbie Lacopo, a Cequent employee of 19 years, have four children to take care of and another on the way.

Even though workers were preparing themselves for the announcement, they still weren’t fully ready to hear the news.

“I’m in a stunned type of stage,” Hanna admitted.

Hanna said the company will begin a series of “communication meetings” next week to provide more information to workers.

Nick Wesman contributed to this story.

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