VII. Hard Times - 1980-1999. "With Whirlpool getting out of the compressor business, we expect to see more and more foreign compressors in U.S. room units." William E. Macbeth, Executive at Tecumseh Products, 1983


B. Less tension, less business

When Bob Housch was assigned by Tecumseh Products to take over the position of Acklin's Plant Manager many employees felt that this marked a change in the relationship between management in the front office and the union workers on the floor. Mr. Housch was a retired production operator who had brought troubled plants through difficult times in the past. He emphasized co-operation between the union and the management, hosting seminars and forming teams that included both Union and management employees.

In1992, as a part of Bob Housch's new commitment to better employee relations he invited the Cumberland Group to perform an anonymous survey of 65 of Acklin's employees. Asking a wide range of questions on a variety of topics the survey was able to uncover the deep tensions and dissatisfaction that ran through the company. Among the problems described was a sense of tension between the management and the workers and a reluctance for accountability at all levels. Acklin employees felt that they were being held to higher standards than other Tecumseh divisions.

The employees also noted a lack of long term goals or planning and felt that the plant was operating on a day by day mentality. They were concerned by a perceived lack of leadership for the past decade and felt that this had contributed to a low sense of pride in Acklin and in Acklin produced products.

Asa result of this survey and efforts made on both sides, things began to improve between the union employees and the Tecumseh management representatives present at Acklin. However Tecumseh Product's corporate management felt that Bob Housch was, according to a union committee member at that time "too easy on us."

Despite these improvements in management-employee relations, economic pressure continued to weigh heavy on Acklin in particular and the metal working industry at large. Decreasing profits, increased automation, and an ever increasing globalization of the industrial labor market continued through this period. Tecumseh's worldwide divisions were quickly becoming increasingly important to the company's bottom line, just as foreign made compressors continued to undersell domestically produced items.

Inthe fall of 1998, Tecumseh Products told Acklin employees to take a $3.75 per hour pay cut of face the closure of the plant. In a vote on the proposed contract Acklin employees turned it down by an overwhelming 106-3 margin. They refused, as one employee put it, to "take chances of getting fingers and hands cut off for McDonald's wages" continuing "when we were in negotiations I went by a McDonalds in Wauseon and it said 'Now Hiring, Full Benefits, $8 an hour.' Well, we didn't even have full benefits."

Atthe time of the decision, Acklin employed a little more than 100 employees. In November of 1998 half were laid off, leaving an equal number to ride out what looked to be the end of Acklin Stamping.

 

 

 

Tecumseh Sign over Acklin.

 

 

 


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This Web Page was conceived, written, and designed by Ben Grillot. Copyright 2000.
Last Updated: 1/3/12