July 5, 2005
Their journey should have ended far better than it did.
Last week, a group of Vermont bristle factory workers who are being dismissed from their jobs with a mere two weeks severance pay decided to come to Boston and make their plea to executives from the private capital firm that is shuttering their plant.
They wanted to ask for more severance pay, given that some of them have worked for Specialty Filaments for more than 30 years. And they wanted to ask about the status of their pensions, because the management hasn’t provided any information about them in the last several years.
I had high hopes. I thought maybe Robert C. Ammerman, the founder and managing partner of Capital Resource Partners, would invite the factory workers up to the office for bagels and juice.
They’d sit around a table and Ammerman would ask each of the workers about their jobs, their families, their long history with the century-old company. They’d talk about their pride in seeing an Oral-B toothbrush with bristles that they helped make. They’d mention the injuries they suffered in the plant over the years. They’d describe how this plant was the only job some of them had ever known.
And in the end, Ammerman would announce that they could forget about their severance pay. They could forget about it because he would keep the plant open so the 100 proud workers could continue doing what they’ve always done so well. Everyone would hug and applaud.
Yeah, right. As the Hertz ads say, “Not exactly.”
Oh, the Specialty Filaments factory workers journeyed to Boston all right. They journeyed here, about eight in all, in a three-car caravan 3 1/2 hours through lush Vermont valleys and over verdant hills. And when they arrived at Capital Resource Partners on Merrimac Street, they were met with a locked door.
It didn’t seem to bother them. Jim Lamore, a worker for 34 years, carried a fishing rod, saying he was “hoping to land the big one.” Patricia Russell — think Carla on “Cheers,” only sassier — brought along the X-rays of the plates and screws in her neck because of work injuries. Others carried signs that read, “CRP has the goldmine and we got the shaft.”
Eventually, they talked their way into the lobby, then onto the elevator, and into CRP’s offices on the second floor. Impressive offices, too, with soaring ceilings and a backlit stained glass collage of Boston sports teams, and a pair of chairs from the old Boston Garden.
But before the Vermonters took two steps, a building manager who refused to give his name cut them off and said CRP was closed. Closed? It was early Thursday afternoon. Phones were ringing. People could be seen and heard in their offices. Guys, they’re factory workers, not morons.
After the group was escorted to the sidewalk, Chuck Hall, a plant worker for 19 years, grabbed the megaphone and led a chant of “How do you spell greed? CRP.”
A few passing cars honked. The blinds rustled in one CRP office upstairs. A smattering of onlookers gathered across the street. And that was pretty much that.
I left messages for Robert C. Ammerman and Alexander “Sandy” McGrath, both managing partners of Capital Resource Partners, but they didn’t call me back. When I called CRP’s chief operating officer, Jeffrey W. Potter, the man who answered the phone said he wasn’t there.
OK, so Robert C. Ammerman, Alexander “Sandy” McGrath, and Jeffrey W. Potter aren’t going to answer the questions of lowly employees and reporters. Perhaps the Massachusetts or Vermont attorney general will make an inquiry about the pension fund and leave them no choice but to respond.
Meantime, if you see any of these clowns from Capital Resource Partners around, you might want to ask why they’ll only give two weeks pay to men and women who poured their lives into a factory, and why they wouldn’t even give those workers two minutes of their time. I’ll keep you posted on how this plays out.
Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org