Longtime Janesville worker threatened

Norwalk plant worker says he faces discipline, possible firing over display of unhappiness.
Melissa Topey
Oct 13, 2013

 

A Janesville Acoustics employee who displayed his unhappiness with General Motors says he was threatened with discipline and possible firing.

Kevin Fenwick, an 18-year employee at the plant, thought he would work for the factory for many more years.

Then, in August, plant executives suddenly announced they were closing the plant at the end of 2014 to move closer to customers in the automotive industry. About 290 people will lose their jobs.

Janesville executives asked their employees for one last act of loyalty — they needed them to continue working during the transition.    General Motors is one of the larger contracts held by Janesville Acoustics, union officials said. Employees said they feel the auto manufacturer has a big influence on the move.

When Janesville employees heard GM officials would be at the plant beginning Wednesday, they figured it was time to be heard. Aiming to express their hurt and frustration about the pending move, about eight employees on the factory floor that day wore handmade badges with the letters “GM” scribbled inside a circle with a slash through it.

“Management told us to take them off or get disciplined and possibly fired,” Fenwick said. “They told us we have to support GM because GM supports Janesville.”

Fenwick and the others took off the badges.

The following morning, on a public street in front of the Janesville plant, Fenwick parked his car and outfitted it with an enormous anti-GM sign. He then went inside to work.

Over the plant’s intercom, he heard a page for the shift manager and then for the union representative. Fenwick was then paged to the plant office. He was told the company would have his car towed if he didn’t move it and remove the sign.

“I told them I was not breaking any law,” Fenwick said.

Norwalk police were called to the scene, and the officer who arrived quickly determined Fenwick was not violating any laws.

So, the car stayed.

And for his part, Fenwick said he told the company’s leaders he would not be threatened or intimidated. He went back to work.

“They are sucking the life out of us employees,” Fenwick said. “They are sucking the life out of the community. I got support from other employees who feel exploited. They shook my hand and said, ‘Thank you.’”

Janesville Acoustics officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Comments

Stop It

+1

bondgirlM

I say good for him! We must start standing up for what is right. Janesville is just being a bully. Good for Mr. Fenwick.

VOTENO

Good for him!

Colonel Angus

Well played Mr. Fenwick. Like Zapata said, "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees."

worddrow811

Excellent!

SamAdams

Mr. Fenwick has every right to express his opinion non-violently. The police behaved exactly as I would have hoped, and told the powers that be that no laws were being broken. Good for Mr. Fenwick, and thanks to the police for upholding the law rather than, as in an unfortunate number of instances nationwide, IGNORING the law to muzzle dissent.

That being said, it's also important to see things from GM's side. Why are they relocating operations REALLY? I don't know because I'm unfamiliar with the details behind this story. Chances are good, however, that no company would decide to make such a decision based on not liking an employee or group of employees or any other petty and personal motivation.

Are Janesville products too costly? If so, why? Is Janesville inefficient? If so, what can be done about it? Is GM merely tightening its belt? That's unfortunate for everybody affected, but at least it makes sense. Displaying some sort of anti-GM sentiment is understandable, but it does zilch to address whatever the real problems are.

From the Grave

I guess they have the right to fire him if he does things they don't like...maybe.

Yellow Snow

Forbes financial magazine just listed Sandusky, OHIO as number 3 for CHEAPEST to live in the United States, they listed Sandusky as number one just a few years ago. Norwalk is in the same ballpark. Janesville is not the only one to be messed over by big business, many have left for cheaper pastures. With so much anti-union in our area, thank you, Kevin. Most union employees don't rely on government handouts.

AnAmerican

Janesville is leaving primarily due to the costs of the employees' union. Behavior like this in a round about way proves the point; employees cannot have it both ways. Services were rendered and employees were paid. Janesville does NOT OWE ANYONE anything.

Janesville is tired of having to abide and yield to the demands of a union. You employees did it to yourselves.

I'm grateful for the many years of employment and tax revenue from Janesville. The business is doing what is best for all (national) its employees and its shareholders. That is how the cookie crumbles. It stinks and hurts, but it is part of life. The sense of entitlement is getting so far out of hand it is becoming ridiculous.

SamAdams

That's exactly what I feared the underlying problem was, but since it was only an assumption, I wasn't inclined to pretend that was the case.

Until some of these unions recognize that they're part of the PROBLEM and not the solution, we'll continue to see sad stories like this.

Jmschmidt812

You are way off base here. Based on an article, from this very paper I believe, management said they have had a wonderful agreement and partnership with the union. If I'm right I believe they NEEDED to be closer to their clients to keep the shipping costs down. Stop to think about how much fuel has gone up. These corporations don't care about that. All they want is the cheapest price they can get. You used this platform to assume it was all the unions doing, when in fact it wasn't.

From the Grave

The company may be negotiating with GM to stay open~I mean, they stand to be out of jobs too, not just the union workers. The next story we read may be about the employees having to vote on a pay cut to keep the plant open and here. That's how it works these days.

looking around

It's obvious the working people are fed up with this type of corporate restructuring, downsizing, relocation in the constant quest for cheap labor, less benefits, less oversight and union busting. I have not heard where they plan to relocate and if they offer transfer to the workforce. Although if they are seeking cheaper labor, I can't imagine workers wanting to uproot their family to provide this company with experienced workers. Good luck to all the workforce and let these corporate mongers know exactly where your loyalty will be in the future when you make purchase decisions where their products are options.

Bottom line is management had the audacity to think they could intimidate and threaten this man, that's the real story here.

lor70

Way to go Kevin!!

Kmf1984

Any employer would discipline an employee for this... You're not being picked on, sir

bama

"Janesville executives asked their employees for one last act of loyalty". Where is Janesville's loyalty to its employees? Way to go Kevin!

bama

Tired of seeing comments about the Union did this or the Union did that. The Union employees did this to themselves, etc. W/O Unions, all these big companies would have it's employees working for little pay, excessive hours and no benefits while they pocket high salaries for themselves.

YoMamma

You know that for sure? Maybe your just regurgitating union garbage!

bama

As a matter of fact, I do know this for sure. Wife worked over 10 years in a factory in Ottawa County which up and closed. No Union there. Employees were paid little with little to no benefits and if you called off sick, you were written up unless you had "personal" time. That of course made no sense since they were not paid personal or sick time.

looking around

YoMamma, you obviously don't know anything about labor history. It is not " regurgitation union garbage" it is historical fact that the unions fought for and won better pay, better benefits, better working conditions and provided representation for the employees as a group. They set the stage for regulated safety, working hours and fair treatment for all working people union or not by pushing for legislation to protect all workers. They continue to monitor the work place and represent employees so that no one person is a single voice. Now that I know for sure! It's people like yourself who never walked a picket line or stood up to management when asked to perform an unsafe task that think these company's would give employees respect and fairness out of the goodness of their own heart. What you promote is "regurgitation" of jealousy of union represented labor that has set the bar for a standard.

starryeyes83

This gentleman has more cajones than the plant bosses combined. He was in his right.

However, NO UNION will save jobs. They are money suckers, too. They are part of the problem.

red white and blue

Anamerican please change your name you should be ashamed to call your self an american after a statement like that.

red white and blue

These people at janesville don't make that much I don't know why everyone keeps saying there greedy.I KNOW THIS PLACE VERY WELL FROM THE TOP DOWN THEY ARE SHAFTING THERE EMPLOYES

gene44870

“Management told us to take them off or get disciplined and possibly fired,” Fenwick said. “They told us we have to support GM because GM supports Janesville

This is true , but stop and think about it , Janesville and GM are only going to support company name only , This tells me that the back bone of the company , namely the workers dont count . Profits are the only thing that is what Janesville and G.M are looking at

G.M says thanks tax payers for bailing us out and now we will thank you by placing all of you on the unemploment line , Thanks again
I know this is what they are saying and laughing all the way to the bank. As the old saying goes The Rick get Richer and the middle class and Poor put them there

Mr. D

Corporate thugs. . . just gangsters in suits!!!

KURTje

Good for you Kevin - most people hate free speech.

2sense

Yeah yeah yeah

BEHAPPY

Corporate bullies is RIGHT! It's happening more and more. I have to laugh at the people making fun at union WORKERS~I would bet they are retired union workers and have not been in the working field for some time now~WORKERS are treated TERRIBLY anymore especially if you have been with a company for years! They do not want you to get your retirement~while the BIG SHOTS save the company money their pockets are being lined with more and more! Time for people to stand up for themselves~the people that cower in a corner are doing so much damage to ALL workers ~including themselves and they can't even see it!!
!

2sense

Take the ies off bullies

Contango

Re: "General Motors"

And this is the way that they repay suppliers for having the Obama Admin. and taxpayers temporarily nationalize them?

Oh the ingratitude.

Agree. Mr. Fenwick has the 'right' to protest and JA has the 'right' to respond accordingly as they see fit.

justspoutingoff

How's about GM offering the Janesville workers jobs ? If these men and women supported Janesville for 20 plus years it would seem that GM would step up and do the "right" thing. But instead these workers are being bent over. They are being treated badly and talked down to each day. It really is a shame that after all these years people are treated like dirt. I wish all the workers the best and hope that you all are able to find jobs. It's all about the all mighty dollar anymore.

Whoopball

I completely understand the anger and frustration the Mr. Fenwick is expressing and I'm sure he is acting out what many more are feeling. They are getting a raw deal from a company that has been in Norwalk since 1881 and has never done anything that wasn't in the pure self interest of the corporation. That being said, I would suggest that the best interest of the workers, and the company run parallel in this regard. A peaceful and quiet exit may help JA with customer relations, but it may also help the workers find new jobs in the future. Companies looking to relocate do things like read the papers in the areas they are investigating. If they perceive our area to be a hot bed of radical union unrest they will avoid us no matter how aggressive we are with tax breaks and cheap buildings. Mr. Fenwick consider your actions and their effects. Will they change JA's plans or will they just reduce your and your coworkers' chance of finding new work?

Whoopball

double post

2Timothy1-7

He's lucky he didn't criticize a retired judge or local blogger/pundit concerning public affairs and government actions.

SamAdams

I think it's past time to note that ALL businesses are in business for one reason and one reason only: To make money. To suggest that the powers that be at Janesville or the corporate bigwigs at GM are "in it for the money" isn't an insult (or it shouldn't be). It's a simple fact, and one that makes perfect sense.

When companies stop making money, they take steps to increase their bottom line. That happens to be true for union and non-union shops alike. In some cases, unions have hastened their own jobs' demise, but the bottom line is ALWAYS the bottom line.

To suggest that companies are in business to take care of their employees is progressive propaganda at its worst. They're not. Yes, treating employees well helps you keep the best employees (which is worth the investment in almost every case). And of COURSE employees shouldn't be subject to dangerous working conditions. But beyond that, the math is pretty simple. Employees trade their time and their expertise for a paycheck. Employers trade their money for the labor of their employees. That's it. If the trade becomes too inequitable for ANY reason, this is what happens. Don't employees quit when they're mistreated or paid inadequately? Then why shouldn't employers change things when THEY'RE mistreated or profiting inadequately?

Whoopball

Sam, Those are cold hard truths that many people don't grasp. You did present this as a bilateral arrangement which isn't quite accurate. In union shops such as JA the workers pay a significant sum, automatically deducted from their paychecks, under the delusion that the union somehow protects their jobs. When they don't, the union has to gin up resentment to divert attention from themselves. All too often the only real agenda of union officials is to negotiate job descriptions and work rules which artificially inflate the number of required workers. This creates more dues for them but actually makes the company less competitive and hastens management decisions to become more efficient.