Local, State, Federal Officials Call on Brooks Brothers to Pay Benefits; Fiorentini Asks Tax Relief be Repaid

Local 187 Unite Here union member and Southwick employee Ana Rondon. (WHAV News video capture.)

Leaders at all levels of government joined with labor yesterday in lashing out at the manufacturer of Brooks Brothers suits for not providing severance pay and health benefits for laid off workers.

In a video press conference hosted by Sen. Edward J. Markey, officials not only asked that employees receive benefits, but Mayor James J. Fiorentini and Rep. Andy X. Vargas called for the company to return local tax relief and $2.2 million in state assistance.

“The attorney general—and I’ve written to her yesterday—needs to examine whether or not there are claw-back provisions that will allow the state to regain its millions of dollars in tax benefits,” he said.

As WHAV first reported in May, Haverhill’s Southwick—manufacturer of Brooks Brothers clothing—said it would either find a buyer or declare bankruptcy. The company has since filed for bankruptcy.

Congresswoman Lori Trahan opened the press conference with two demands of the company’s CEO.

“We’ve made it clear to Mr. (Claudio) Del Vecchio that Brooks Brothers owes Southwick workers real, substantial, severance pay so they can keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table for their families, and the company owes them health coverage,” she said.

Vargas explains why leaders put so much faith in Southwick.

“Our state delegation and the legislature has taken so much pride in this facility because it is an immigrant and union-run shop. There is so much to be proud of in this shop, which is why we were willing to support Southwick, we were willing to support this union, because it was a model for the rest of the Commonwealth and the rest of the country that manufacturing could still be done in the United States in a humane and high quality way,” he explained.

Markey said he understands Southwick is not responsible for the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the company is responsible for keeping its word to 413 workers. “Brooks Brothers suits and shirts may be hanging in countless closets, but we cannot let Brooks Brothers leave these workers hanging out to dry,” he said.

Officials were joined by representatives of Local 187 of the Unite Here union, Warren Pepicelli and Ana Rondon.

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