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B&D; moving jobs to Mexico 200 slots in Calif. cut earlier this year


Towson-based Black & Decker Corp. is moving about 200 jobs in its faucet-making business from Los Angeles to Mexico, and some laid-off workers have staged a hunger strike over their severance packages.

The business, Price Pfister, cut 200 jobs at its Pacoima, Calif., facility in separate layoffs this year.

"Of the 200, about 80 have occurred in the last six to eight weeks, including 64" on Thursday, said Barbara Lucas, Black & Decker's vice president of public affairs.

About 1,100 jobs remain, including about 800 factory jobs. Lucas blamed the cuts on environmental regulations and the company's need to consolidate operations at its 10-year-old Mexicali, Mexico, facility.

Price Pfister, the third largest faucet manufacturer in the North American market, might cut an additional 150 jobs over the next few months, she said.

"They're doing what literally thousands of factories have done -- moving to Mexico," said Manny Barbosa, chief negotiator with Teamsters Local 986. "We contend that it is to maximize profits because of the disparities. The average wage here is $9.50 an hour, and $17 an hour with benefits. Some make $20 an hour. In Mexico, it's 85 cents to $1 an hour."

Black & Decker, which employs about 3,000 in Maryland and about 28,000 worldwide, has eliminated about 1,300 jobs as part of a restructuring plan. Almost all of the company's recent job cuts have been in Europe, Lucas said.

Lucas said Price Pfister is closing its foundry because California's low-lead regulations have forced it to shift from brass casting in its manufacturing process to fabricated design.

"The net result is that the foundry is not being used," she said.

The foundry, which employs about 100, is being phased out and will close late this year or early next year, Lucas said.

She dismissed the suggestion that the layoffs are aimed at getting cheaper labor.

"I would say that we already do a considerable amount of polishing and assembly there, and we've had operations there for 10 years," she said.

Lucas would not comment on outstanding severance issues. Barbosa, the union negotiator, said Price Pfister wants to give laid-off workers a half-week's pay for every year of service. He said the union wants a full week's pay for every year of service. The sides also disagree on which workers should receive that severance package.

"We're dealing with people here," Barbosa said. "Many of them spent their whole lives with the company."

About six workers started a hunger strike Thursday that is to last until Thanksgiving eve, when they plan to present Price Pfister with a "Turkey of the Year Award."

Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon, whose district includes the factory, said the job eliminations cut at the heart of Pacoima, a largely Hispanic area that has lost Lockheed and General Motors plants over the last five years. "This is a working class community struggling with downsizing," he said.

Alarcon is working with other government officials to help the laid-off employees and to find a way to keep the foundry open.

He said Black & Decker has answered his calls by referring him to Price Pfister management.

"From my viewpoint, Black & Decker has the ultimate decision-making authority on this," he said. "It's almost as it they are trying to hide behind the Price Pfister name when they are tTC responsible for sending these jobs to Mexico. We're talking about a lot of people losing a lot of jobs."

Lucas said, "I think the Price Pfister management is sorting this out."

Pub Date: 11/23/96

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