Hartmarx deal could save jobs

June 30, 2009 4:30:47 AM PDT
Hundreds of jobs could be saved at Chicago-area suit maker Hartmarx.Employees cheered the news at a rally on Monday morning at the company's plant in the northwest suburbs.

The luxury suit maker undergoes some executive changes, but the suit - made famous by President Obama - will continue to be made by American workers.

There was word Monday that three Hartmarx executive are leaving as the company prepares for new ownership.

It's unclear what the new owner will do with staffing, but for now plant workers are celebrating.

An unusual break from work was well earned. Workers from Hartmarx in Des Plaines rallied and drew attention to a possible demise of the 125-year-old sui tmaker for months. Now it appears their battle is won.

"You stood up to banks. You stood up for working people for the right to earn a living in this great land of ours. You stood up and said we're not asking for handouts, we're fighting for what's ours," said Bruce Raynor, Workers United/SEIU.

A bankruptcy court is overseeing the acquisition of Hartmarx to a bidder that plans to invest in the company, not liquidate.

Workers got some help from federal and local leaders, urging the company's largest debtor to accept a bid that would allow the company to continue operating in the U.S.

"Good decent men and women and their families are going to have their jobs and their healthcare and because of you and the work that you did this is the proudest day I've had as a representative in the House of Representatives," said U.S. Rep. Phil Hare, (D) Illinois.

"You have sent a positive message, a message of hope, a message of victory to workers all over this country that when you stand together you win," said U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, (D) Illinois.

"We have to do everything we can to make sure they continue to invest in our local economy, especially right here in Illinois," said Alexi Giannoulias, Illinois treasurer.

For workers the acquisition is a great relief for now after months of waiting and worrying.

"Joy, peace. I can go home and relax tonight. I don't have to worry about how dark the tunnel is. Because as of today there's a light at the end of the tunnel, we can see it," said Ruby Sims, Hartmarx employee.

"For me it mean it like I won the Powerball from Indiana?when you win big money that's what it feels like...for everybody," said Marina Franceschi, Hartmarx employee.

Emerisque is scheduled to take over Hartmarx on July 7.

Union leaders say they look forward to working to the new owner to insure positions aren't lost.


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