Workers and union leaders are calling for a boycott of Energizer – the battery maker famous for its “Energizer bunny” ads – over its plans to close factories in Wisconsin and move jobs overseas to Singapore, UK, and a non-union plant in North Carolina.
Using the hashtag #BadBunny, the Teamsters Union this week called for a protest boycott. “The name of their company is a joke. The only thing they’re “energizing” is another economy in another country,” Teamsters general chairman Sean O’Brien said.
In December 2022, Chris Udelhoven, who worked at the Energizer plant in Fennimore, Wisconsin for 43 years in various roles, said workers were told via a short paragraph that Energizer planned to close the plant and another in Portage, Wisconsin over the next 18 to 24 months, a move that would cut about 600 jobs.
“Everyone was in shock,” Udelhoven said. “Our workers come from all the surrounding counties. Lots of people have other family members working here. It’s a big success. »
She said her sister also worked at the factory, with job losses affecting surrounding businesses in the town of Fennimore, which has just under 3,000 people, hitting friends and families hard.
“They need to stay here in Wisconsin, we don’t want them to leave here, we want the jobs to stay where they are. I don’t know where all these people are going to find work,” Udelhoven added. “We continue to fight to keep these factories open, involving the communities in this fight with us, reaching out to government officials, whoever they can to help keep these facilities open.”
Rob Krantz, who owns and operates Krantz Auto Parts in Fennimore, Wisconsin and worked at the plant under RayoVac before Energizer acquired the company in 2018, removed all Energizer products from his store in protest after the announcement of the closure of the factory.
“We are a small rural community that will lose over 300 jobs,” Krantz said. “It will be devastating for all businesses in our city, including mine. All I see here by the move is more corporate greed.
Offshoring has been a contentious political issue, as manufacturing in the United States has seen steep job losses in recent decades, decimating communities across the Midwest. After an initial decline at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, there are currently just under 13 million manufacturing jobs in the United States, a slight increase from pre-pandemic numbers.
The safety net for workers affected by offshoring, the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program, expired due to a lack of congressional funding in July 2022. The plan covered 107,454 workers affected by offshoring in 2021.
“This is corporate greed at its peak,” said Rocco Calo, Teamsters vice president for the Eastern Region. “We look at what has happened with the supply chains, with the goods transported, the problems that we have, it does not make sense to me that we are going to bring jobs overseas and then transport the goods in this country. I don’t think that’s a really smart business decision.
The Teamsters criticized Energizer’s decision given the $10 million in government grants the company has received since 1999 in six states and the ongoing federal contracts Energizer has with the U.S. military and Department of Veterans Affairs. Fighters.
The union highlighted Energizer’s strong financial performance. The company reported gross profit of $1.1 billion in 2022 and paid $93 million to shareholders in dividends in 2022. In August 2021, Energizer reached an agreement to spend $75 million on buybacks. actions. Energizer CEO Mark LaVigne received an increase in his total compensation from $6 million in 2021 to more than $9 million in 2022.
The Teamsters negotiated with Energizer economic protections for workers affected by the shutdowns, including expanded medical coverage, severance packages and fixed schedules to retain workers through 2024.
“We have made it clear to Energizer that our goal is to keep these plants open,” said Local 695 President Bryan Rademacher.
Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin criticized Energizer’s plans to close factories in the state during a recent Senate Aid Committee meeting, noting that the closings came just after Energizer requested funds government for research and development. She also asked the Federal Trade Commission to review Energizer’s 2018 acquisition of Rayovac over plant closures.
“I’m disturbed by a trend that I see,” Baldwin said. “It seems to me that when they seek government support, these billion dollar companies talk about their American facilities and workers, meanwhile some of these companies, like Energizer, are looking to move a union relocation to a non-union state or foreign country.
An Energizer spokesperson said: “Last week we reached an agreement with the union which provides a package including severance pay, health insurance coverage and job placement assistance. As we have said from day one, our colleagues are our primary concern and we will continue to focus on them. We are pleased that negotiations with the union have been completed so that our colleagues can have the clarity they expect and deserve.