Brooks Brothers Urged To Give Haverhill Workers A Fair Severance

HAVERHILL, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — The nation’s oldest clothing company, Brooks Brothers, has filed for bankruptcy and is planning to shut down its Southwick factory in Haverhill.

With hundreds of workers set to be out of jobs, members of the state’s congressional delegation are calling on the company to give the workers what they deserve.

Congresswoman Lori Trahan said Southwick is "the only Brooks Brothers factory in the country that won’t provide their employees with any severance or health insurance after the facility closes."

She said the company should pay a fair severance package to the 413 unionized workers at the Haverhill plant.

"The company owes them health coverage," said Trahan, "so that they can get back on their feet without living in fear of getting sick or injured.

Senator Ed Markey said he understands times are tough, with the pandemic causing job losses for several months in a row, but he said workers deserve what they were promised.

"Brooks Brothers is not responsible for succumbing to the financial devastation caused by this pandemic," said Markey. "But Brooks Brothers is responsible for keeping its word."

Update: Brooks Brothers has provided WBZ News Radio with the following statement:

"Although Brooks Brothers does not comment specifically on confidential negotiations, it should be noted that the union leader representing Southwick employees did negotiate and sign its most recent binding Collective Bargaining Agreement – which – unlike our other two factories in the North Carolina and New York, did not include a severance provision.

"It did, however, include a provision that binds the Company to pay benefits for employees including healthcare, which have been paid throughout the pandemic while employees are on furlough. The Company has fulfilled all commitments to its most recent CBA which the union negotiated and signed.

"In addition, prior to our decision to close our U.S. factories, all employees were provided WARN notices before Brooks Brothers filed for Chapter 11 protection. Immediately after these WARN notices were filed, the Company partnered with the state to develop a job posting site and hosted employers on-site who were interested in hiring our employees, at all facilities, including Southwick.

"At the outset of the pandemic, Brooks Brothers made several attempts to receive financial support from the State of Massachusetts while it was being given for COVID-19 relief to companies, which Senator Warren’s office oversees. All requests were ignored.

"Prior to the pandemic, the Company met with federal officials in December 2019 to discuss our efforts to keep manufacturing in the U.S. while conveying the immense financial pressure the Company was under, and received a commitment of support, which was not fulfilled.

"This is an outcome that the Company spent several months trying to avoid. All possible opportunities to keep these factories open were explored. The factories and these employees are incredibly meaningful to our heritage and we wish that there had been a better outcome for all amid the pandemic.

"Brooks Brothers is very proud of the work that is done in these factories and has enormous respect for the craftspeople who work in them. We have been proud to make an investment in these factories which have not been profit centers for several years and produce approximately 6 percent of garments for the business. Unfortunately, while entering the Chapter 11 court process, the Company had to focus on creating a sustainable, long-term plan so that there is a business that the majority of employees can come back to, post- pandemic."

WBZ NewsRadio's Suzanne Sausville reports:

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(Photo: Getty Images)

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