Burlington, Vermont - January 30, 2007
The Specialty Filaments plant in Middlebury shut down January 5, when the company cited insurmountable financial losses. All 175 workers were given their last paycheck and told not to come back to work. Since that time, Specialty Filaments filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, meaning that the plant and all of its assets would be sold. Tuesday, a judge agreed to an offer by The Thomas Monahan Company of Illinois to buy those assets for just over $3 million.
"It's a great thing. The workers in Middlebury today, we won a real battle... it's a victory. To come out of the ashes like the plant went down in such a short amount of time, 3 weeks, to come up with a new buyer, jobs offered back to the people, it's a great thing," said Barry Whitney, president of the United Local 2524, the union that represents 134 of the Specialty Filament workers.
That new buyer is the Thomas Monahan Company, a fifth generation company that employs 180 people at a plant in Illinois, where they manufacture and sell brushes and fibers.
"We're just starting fresh today with the assets that the court has approved. So we own all the assets and we're going to try and operate it... hopefully we'll be in production Monday," said Tim Monahan, chairman of the Thomas Monahan Company.
Monahan says they bought the plant because they feel that their experience in the industry will help them turn the plant into a profitable business.
Continued Monahan: "We do feel that there's a lot of room for efficiencies and improvements, and we think actually a lot of the workers know those things, and that's what we'll try and draw out and hope that they can help us."
Employees have also helped the company by agreeing to a contract that took away some benefits.
Said Whitney: "We made some concessions, but they were concessions that people could live with. We got our pay, that's a big thing; we got health insurance, we have dental insurance, 401k. To have a company come in on a very short amount of time and come up with that kind of benefits package says something about who the buyers are."
Barring a last minute problem, the deal will close tomorrow. Assuming that happens, the company said that 50% to 60% of the employees would be back to work as soon as this coming Monday. Within 2 to 3 weeks after that, they expect 80% of the workforce to be active. The remaining 20% would be hired as jobs became available.
Alex Martin - Channel 3 News