BRENHAM, Texas — Texas officials have asked the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate whether the more than 70 employees who lost their jobs here this month at Navisa’s manufacturing plant are eligible for additional benefits.
The Houston-based hanger manufacturer shuttered the plant abruptly April 2. Employees returning to work that day found the factory doors locked and a sign blaming “foreign competition” for the closure.
Texas Workforce Solutions — the state employment agency that stepped in to help former Navisa employees find work — has asked the Labor Department to investigate whether the plant closure meets federal requirements for trade adjustment assistance.
Under current free-trade agreements, if U.S. workers’ jobs are determined to have been exported overseas, they are entitled to assistance. Former Navisa workers may be able to take advantage of job search and relocation assistance, training, a healthcare tax credit and additional benefits.
Navisa also may be in violation of federal Worker Adjustment & Retraining Notification (WARN) Act provisions demanding 60 days notice of mass layoffs. The company has not returned phone calls or e-mails requesting comment, but is rumored to be operating as Texas Cleaners Supply from Navisa’s former headquarters in Houston.
Navisa acquired the 150,000-square-foot Brenham facility in December 2003 after former owner Cleaners Hanger Co. (CHC) filed for bankruptcy and liquidated its assets. The largest hanger plant in the country, it manufactured up to 25,000 struts and 10,000 shirt hangers weekly, supplying customers in drycleaning and uniform rental businesses nationwide with a full line of hangers, poly packaging and other supplies.
Domestic hanger manufacturers have been struggling to compete with foreign competitors for much of the decade. CHC, M&B Hangers and United Wire Hanger joined early in 2003 to seek trade protections from Chinese manufacturers through the International Trade Commission (ITC), but a recommended tariff on hanger imports was rejected by the Bush administration.