Mayor: Brooks Brothers’ Haverhill Failure Falls on Workers ‘Least Able to Withstand the Blow’

Mayor James J. Fiorentini; City Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua and then-City Councilor X. Andy Vargas toured Haverhill’s Southwick manufacturing in November 2016. (WHAV News photograph.)

Despite retooling two months ago to make personal protective equipment at its Haverhill operation, Haverhill says a legal notice filed with the state last week suggests the end is near for Brooks Brothers.

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini said Brooks Brothers, which owns Haverhill-based Southwick Clothing, notified the state it planned to close its Haverhill operation as well as plants in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Garland, N.C. The mayor said he understands the company is faced with two options—find a buyer or declare bankruptcy. In the end, though, the mayor told WHAV, the poorest among us will suffer the most.

“Once again, the burden of this pandemic-induced recession falls most heavily on those who are least able to withstand the blow,” he told WHAV.

Back in March, the mayor said he hoped the Computer Drive company’s switch to making medical equipment would bring back all 400 laid off employees.

“It had been our hope for some time that Southwick would not close down—that they would retool and make masks. There are 50 to 70 people working there right now today, making masks,” he said.

Fiorentini said not only was the company unable to bring back all of the workers, he has since learned from the union, those hired were not longtime employees. “When they reopened and hired 50 to 70 people, they did not hire back the union employees who worked there.”

He called the hiring practice “a kick in the teeth” since the city gave tax breaks and union members made concessions in order to have Southwick relocate to Haverhill.

Fiorentini said he still wants to help Southwick, legally a standalone corporation, continue making medical equipment. He said he was working to obtain a grant to allow the company to buy the equipment it needs to complete the transition to another line of manufacturing. The mayor said the city sent officials to Southwick Monday, but no one answered the door. He said he also reached out unsuccessfully to former state Sen. Steven A. Baddour, who is the company’s lobbyist.

 

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