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Local 469 workers have right combination for more jobs at Master Lock

‘Re-sourced’ work from China returns to Milwaukee plant

An additional three dozen workers may not sound like much, considering that in the 1990s the Master Lock facility had 1,300 workers compared to a little more than 25 percent of that number today.

But UAW Local 469 members in Milwaukee are hoping that they’ve turned the corner on the outsourcing of the jobs to Mexico and China.

UAW Local 469 member Diane Linsy works on a combination lock assembly machine.

“Re-sourcing” seems to be the new buzzword, and it’s a word the 337 Master Lock workers hope they hear more often. Master Lock recently announced it would return its combination lock manufacturing to the United States.

UAW Region 4 Director Ron McInroy believes the continued efficient and quality work performed by the members of Local 469 have a direct correlation to the work returning to the Milwaukee facility. Master Lock should be commended for supporting their workers, members of Local 469, their families and the community they all live in, McInroy said.

“The return of solid middle-class jobs to Milwaukee is huge for us, especially in this economy,” said McInroy.

“While there might not be as many new jobs as we would like, Master Lock’s willingness to bring work back home is a major shift. I’m hopeful that this will help other companies realize that American workers are able to compete with the Chinese and are all the better for the pride they take in their work,” he added.

“It’s obviously a positive move for our employees,” said Local 469 President Grace Maizonet. “It’s an opportunity to increase capacity, which is something we always strive to do.”

The re-sourcing will allow some temporary workers to become permanent hires. Maizonet added that there are other expansion projects separate from the combination lock line at the company’s flagship facility. Master Lock, which began to outsource manufacturing to low-wage countries Mexico and China in 1993, first produced locks in Milwaukee in 1921.

UAW Local 469 member Ernestine Dorris runs a cylinder assembly machine at Master Lock.

The plant is now at capacity for the first time in 15 years.

For Local 469 members, who successfully negotiated a five-year contract with Master Lock in 2008, this expansion marks a favorable turn of events amid the climate of so many manufacturing jobs being sent overseas.

Recent raises in the minimum wage in 30 provinces across China – along with significantly higher costs of shipping across the country – are making many companies reconsider their decisions to set up shop in the rapidly growing Asian economy.

Together with China’s weakening of the dollar, Master Lock’s decision to return jobs to the United States might prove to be a growing trend among manufactures. Other companies such as General Electric Co. and Wham-O Inc., which manufactures Frisbees and Hula Hoops, are also moving jobs back to America.

While experts fall short of declaring a complete resurgence in manufacturing jobs, the increasing costs of production in China may shift many companies’ long-term plans to send work abroad – perhaps more so as Master Lock makes public the fact that unionized American workers can produce locks at the same cost as nonunion Chinese workers without having to make any concessions.

Beenish Ahmed