Union wants vote on Kimberly-Clark incentives package

Posted at 4:02 PM, Apr 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-18 19:21:29-04

The union that represents Kimberly-Clark employees, Local 2-482 of the United Steelworkers (USW), issued a news release this week, calling on the Wisconsin State Senate to vote on a subsidy package designed to keep the two Kimberly-Clark plants in operation.

In January, the company announced it had plans to close ten plants worldwide, including the Neenah and Fox Crossing locations, eliminating about 600 jobs in the Northeast Wisconsin area.

The company was founded in Neenah, Wis., in 1872, and considers the Fox Crossing facility its "flagship" location.

The union says they've been meeting with the company and state leaders, in hopes to keep the plants open.

In February, legislation was introduced by State Senator Roger Roth (R-Appleton), who represents the Fox Valley. The package would include subsides similar to those given to Foxconn. 

The State Assembly passed the bill, 56-37, but the senate never voted on the measure.  The company never said they would keep the plants open if the aid bill was passed.

Tom Nelson, Outagamie County Executive, says he believes the company is exploiting legislative inaction.

“What the workers are calling for is simply and up or down vote by the state senate. So that there's some certainty that they will have so that they can continue to do negotiations in good faith,” said Nelson. 

He also added that it’s concerning that the company is asking workers to make concessions to cut labor costs. He also points out, there's no guarantee in the legislation to keep workers at other Kimberly-Clark plants. 

“I would absolutely give the benefit of the doubt to the state senators and members of the state assembly who either support the bill or voted for the bill, I don't think any of them intended that this legislation to be used in a way to hurt workers, and that's exactly what's happening,” said Nelson. 

NBC26 contacted Sen. Roger Roth to see if there is an update. He said he's ready to call legislative leaders to Madison to vote on this package, when the company says they’re ready.

“The senate is absolutely going to come in and pass that if we get an indication from Kimberly-Clark that they're ready for us to move forward with this. And that's what we're waiting on right now,” said Sen. Roth.

Sen. Roth says there are two ways to get lawmakers back to Madison to vote on the bill. One, Gov. Walker could call a special session, or there is an extraordinary session, which is called by the Legislature.  

Sen. Roth says as of right now, there is no democratic support for this bill. He says he would like the subsidy package to have bi-partisan support. 

Roth adds that he last had contact with Kimberly-Clark about a month ago and company leaders told him they were in negations with the union. He believes the negotiation process will take some time, even several months.  

We also reached out to Kimberly-Clark, here is their response: 

“At this time, Kimberly-Clark is actively bargaining with union leadership at the Neenah Cold Springs facility, and we are committed to following this important process. We will not comment on any information until final decisions are made by the company after appropriate consultation with the union.”