Janesville workers rally against layoffs, meet with Sen. Baldwin

JANESVILLE, Wis. — A group of employees from a Janesville manufacturing company rallied against a decision to export their jobs to Mexico after spending the morning with U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin on Wednesday.

Hufcor employees were notified via letter earlier this month that their owners Opengate, an equity firm based in L.A. would be terminating manufacturing services stateside later this year.

“This is in my mind such a tragic situation when out of state private equity firms that have no connection with the community buy a company extract the profits and wealth then close it down,” said Baldwin.

Baldwin a critic of Opengate said this isn’t the first time the firm has closed a Wisconsin based company. She went on to advocate for federal regulation intended to hold private equity firms more accountable to their employees.

For the employees who gathered in a lot outside of Hufcor wearing shirts that read “Strong and Proud” those standards would come too late.

“I think the problem is people want to be compensated fairly and have some benefits,” said Hufcor Metals Assembler Rick Kinderman.”They’re not gonna give these people nothing down there. In fact we know they’re going to pay them 4 dollars and 29 cents an hour or something like that.”

Many Hufcor employees said at this point they aren’t optimistic about their own jobs but will continue to fight for workers like them and their family’s future.

Though this fight hasn’t been easy said Hulfcor employee Michelle Hilt who’s worked for the company for over 20 years along with her husband Jeff Hilt.

The couple who are scheduled to lose their job in August had one message for Opengate.

“I would just like to say how the hell do you sleep at night you know. Do you have children? Do you support your children? We are not asking for a lot we’re just asking for an honest living,” Michelle said.

Sen. Baldwin said many of these employees will likely have access to an assistance program which helps workers who lose their jobs overseas.

This is the second rally held by employees, union representatives, and community members this month. Layoffs at Hufcor start Augusr 3rd and run through October 3rd.

Hufcor has been in Janesville since 1900 and was bought by Opengate in 2017.

Representatives from Opengate as of this posting have yet to respond to an interview request.