FREEHOLD, N.J. — A union aided by rock star Bruce Springsteen in its fight to save 400 jobs at a Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing plant here plans to expand its campaign to keep open the factory and others facing closure.
The first phase in closing the audio and videotape plant in the singer's hometown began Thursday with the layoff of 100 employees.
Four hundred employees at 3M plants in South Africa were to conduct a sit-in today in sympathy with the efforts by Local 8-760 of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union to keep the Freehold plant open.
The company has insisted since announcing in November plans to close the plant here by June that it would not give in to any pressure to keep it open.
"If we are to remain competitive with the Japanese, we must consolidate operations," 3M spokesman Don Prial said. "Jobs lost in Freehold may be jobs saved in 1987 in other parts of the nation."
The company has offered a severance package that includes a week's pay for each year of employment, six months of free health insurance and job placement assistance, he said.
"I don't think you're going to find very many other companies in this country that have gone to such lengths to try to ease this moment in a worker's life," Prial said.
Local 8-760 President Stanley Fisher announced plans Thursday to expand what he called a "Hometowns Against Shutdowns" campaign, saying that last month he visited other companies' plants scheduled to close in Boston, Pittsburgh and Van Nuys, where more than 5,000 jobs are expected to be lost.
"We are garnering more support every day from both national and international workers," he said. "The fight will not stop with the workers being released today, nor in June, but until it's successful."
The campaign's title draws on "My Hometown," the hit song by Springsteen that centers on the closing of a Freehold textile plant 20 years ago.
The 400 South African workers at plants in Elandsfontein, Pretoria and Harrietdale, Johannesburg, originally planned the walkout to coincide with Thursday's layoffs.
But they postponed it after management attempted to forestall the action by calling shop stewards to a meeting to give its side of the story, union officials said.