Dear Editor, I understand Char Allen’s lament in the Squire, “Why do away with the tannery?” But it reminded me that before 1926, many immigrant husbands and fathers were employed in the orchestra pits of silent movie theaters-a great way for them to compensate for language limitations while blending into a foreign culture. They came to America with the universal skill- music, which gave them confidence and money for their growing families. I imagine those families in crowded walkup flats with dim stairways filled with the sound of children’s stomping feet, women in flowered aprons, men with braces, hand washed clothes hung out to dry, the aroma of baking, and bleach. And the security of a safe warm night leading to the hope of another hectic day. In 1926, the movie, “Don Juan,” used music recorded on wax records synchronized with a film projector to give movies sound. In 1927, “The Jazz Singer,” gave the movies talking and Warner Brothers millions of dollars. That was the end of orchestra pit jobs and one simple segue to the American Dream. There were few unions or food banks, no unemployment or Federal bailout. No one thought to hire a lawyer to sue the greedy movie theaters. Those ancestors of ours had to swallow their pride, moms may have had to clean house for the rich folks, and they probably prayed a lot. The hallways of those dim noisy flats must have heard occasional sobs from a fretting pregnant wife. Men who could not master civilized society’s most basic skill, language, must have had their egos ravaged. And all the time, the kids were watching and experiencing either a little or a lot of their parents’ terror. By God’s mercy and through their fears, those struggling people gave birth to us. I hope we handle our present difficulties, including the closing of the tannery, with the grace, courage, and prayers that our ancestors did. Things change. How we handle change is important. Our kids and grandkids are watching. Dennis Cochran
“We hope to accomplish this closing with the least possible disruption to our employees.” by BETH ALTENA Wolverine World Wide notified tannery workers on Friday, March 20 of the closing of the Rockford tannery on May 13, 2009. In a letter titled WARN Notification to Union dated March 16, the letter stated that the purpose of the letter was pursuant to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1998 (“WARN”). The contents of the letter are as follows: Wolverine World Wide will be permanently closing its Tannery facility located at 181 North Main Street, Rockford, MI 49341. We hope to accomplish this closing with the least possible disruption to our employees. According to the best information available, the expected date of the permanent closing of the facility will be May 15, 2009. A list of the affected bargaining unit position, the number of affected bargaining unit employees in those positions, and the names of bargaining unit employees in affected positions is attached. This notice is given pursuant to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1998 (“WARN”) which requires employers to give official notice to affected unions of a pending facility closing to the representative of affected employees. In the attachment, duties and names of over 60 tannery workers affected are listed. The list is as follows:Two chief boiler operators, one crib attendant, four disposal pit operators, four dry operators, one electrician, five finish operators, one head sorter, three hi-lo operators, one key operator, one lab technician, five millwrights, one each oiler, paint technician, plush mills, pre-cut operator, s/s mechanic, shipping clerk, split-shave labor, four split/shave operators, three SR finish operators, five SR Split/shave operators, seven technicians, one each toggler and utility operator and six wet blue dryer operators. A long-term employee with the company who opted out of returement several years ago said he had the last laugh on the Wolverine. “I’ll be there when they close the doors,” he said.
Residents ask tough questions about WWW properties Rockford City Manager Michael Young spoke to residents on Thursday, March 12 at City Hall about the future of the tannery property. Residents asked about saving jobs, seeking new, clean industry, and other possibilities for the Wolverine properties. City leaders invited homeowners adjacent to the properties up for redevelopment when Wolverine closes tannery operations in Rockford, but many others also showed up for the first of many open house-style meetings. According to City Mayor Chi Chi Rogers, future meetings will likely be held in a larger venue-such as one of Rockford’s middle schools-in order to accommodate what will likely be a large crowd.
Dear Editor, They call it restructuring. It’s more like company greed. The tannery is making money, just not enough. How much is enough? Why does everyone have to leave the U.S.A. and outsource production to Asia? Sad, isn’t it. The meeting at the city council chambers on March 12 had some good ideas. Save the tannery, get industrial jobs in there. Not more stores or office buildings to sit empty for years. Get jobs for the many people losing theirs, like the 125 tannery workers. And I’m sure the $500,000 lost income to the sewer authority will make people pay more to use water. Michigan is about to leave the map! Char Allen Rockford
Dear Editor: Wolverine World Wide has announced the proposed closing of its tannery. Would you like to hear others’ ideas? Would you like to express your ideas? Are you interested in the future of Rockford and the potential redevelopment of the North Main Corridor from Courtland to the Shoe Depot? Our City government wants to hear our input and get our ideas for Rockford’s future. An informal open house will be held in the City’s Council Chambers on Thursday, March 12 starting at 6 p.m. City staff and the City’s planning consultants will be there to listen. The possible redevelopment of the North Main Corridor is something all Rockford citizens have a stake in. I hope to see you at the Council Chamber on March 12! Mike McIntosh