Shoetown no more? Tannery closes doors

END OF AN ERA—One hundred years of history ended Saturday when Wolverine closed the doors to the tannery and its former workers.

END OF AN ERA—One hundred years of history ended Saturday when Wolverine closed the doors to the tannery and its former workers.

Marsha Pollaski and her husband Jim worked at the tannery in downtown Rockford for 22 years.

“I was the first one to break down and start bawling,” she said of the January announcement that the facility would close. ” I bawled all day.”

Pollaski said that since January, Wolverine has been closing down different departments within the tannery and at the end only about 50 workers remained. “The last day was bad,” she said. “Everybody was crying.”

She and other former employees are disapointed that Wolverine has yet to reach an agreement with the union over severance pay.

“If the CEO were to leave today, he’d get over 30 million in severance pay,” she said. “It’s just corporate greed. The tannery made them over a million last year and the company made 96 million.”

Pollaski said the salaries at the tannery were not excessive, and estimated the average pay was $14 to $16 an hour. Benefits were very good.

Pollaski said she and her husband are looking to the future and plan to go back to school for their next career. They both liked their supervisors at Wolverine and feel they would have loved to give them a big send-off, but probably weren’t allowed.

The company has long been a world leader in pigskin tanning, and Pollaski said it seems that aspect of the business is going away and the shoe work going overseas.

“We are over the negativity of this, and I hope the others are as optimistic for their future as we are. It’s just sad for the United States because of American jobs going away,” she said.

“Young people today won’t know about job security. We thought we were showing them job security, but I guess we weren’t.”

“People say it’s the union this and the union that, but it’s not about the union. It’s about American jobs,” Pollaski said.

“We had our jobs and we were very grateful. We tried everything to keep them, pay cuts, but they just weren’t intersted.”

Pollaski added, “I know the tannery was smelly,  but that was the smell of American people working their jobs.”

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