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Illinois employers warn of nearly 1,200 upcoming layoffs

Chicago Tribune

Thursday, September 13, 2018  |  Article  |  Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz

Business (10) , Employment, Jobs (40)

Illinois employers notified the state of nearly 1,200 upcoming layoffs last month, some driven by manufacturing plant closures.

Armacell, which makes foam components at a factory in South Holland, will lay off 87 people when it closes the plant by the end of the year.

The decision stemmed from “constraints of the existing equipment and a change in the competitive landscape,” said Tom Anen, spokesman for the German company.

“To remain competitive, Armacell constantly evaluates its global manufacturing footprint and the decision to close the plant was taken after assessing all strategic options available,” he said in an email.

Armacell continues to operate five manufacturing plants with 550 employees elsewhere in the United States and recently expanded plants in Oklahoma and West Virginia to meet growing demand, Anen said. The South Holland plant that is closing, which has been in operation since 2004, makes polyethylene foam components for the automotive, industrial and sport and leisure markets.

Those workers, who will receive transition services as they search for new jobs, are among 1,195 people affected by upcoming cuts reported to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity in August. State law requires large employers to give at least 60 days’ notice of a plant closure or mass layoff, which is defined as a third of the workforce at a single location.

The largest reported layoff was 369 employees of Aramark Campus Services as a result of lost food service contracts at University of Chicago Medical Center and Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey. But those workers are not necessarily out of a job because typically they are picked up by the new contract provider, said Aramark spokesman Chris Collom.

“Our agreement to provide services for the University of Chicago Medicine has concluded. It is our understanding that affected employees will have the opportunity to apply for positions with the new provider. We will continue to help support a smooth transition,” Collom said in an emailed statement.

Also reporting large cuts was Acuity Brands Lighting, which warned of 298 layoffs at a facility in Des Plaines by the end of the year, as a result of a reorganization, according to the state report. The Atlanta-based company, a major manufacturer of lighting equipment and fixtures, makes its Juno brand in Des Plaines. The company did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

An additional 81 workers will be laid off at the Aurora service center of Follett Higher Education Group, which will close its physical warehouse operations by February to focus on its online marketplace. The affected positions including receiving, packing, shipping and maintenance, said Tom Kline, vice president of corporate communications.

Follett, which is based in Westchester, Ill., provides books, entertainment products and digital content to libraries, college campuses, schools and community booksellers. The closure of the Aurora facility, a warehouse and distribution point for college-level textbooks, is tied to an industry shift to selling textbooks online, Kline said.

Not all layoffs reported under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act result in actual job cuts. Fazal Development Network, which runs 12 Subway restaurants in Chicago, reported 147 upcoming layoffs, but those are unlikely to happen, said John Wheeler, who was appointed receiver of the company after it went into receivership.

Wheeler notified the state of the possible job cuts as he prepared to sell the stores “out of an abundance of caution” because it was unclear what the new owners would do, but it appears an agreement was reached with the lender and the stores will continue to operate, Wheeler said.

Other employers reporting layoffs include:

  • Auto Releasing, which reported 68 layoffs at the Chrysler Assembly Plant in Belvidere as a result of a lost contract.
  • Wachter, which reported 85 layoffs in Decatur, where it provides electrical installation and maintenance.
  • Shop ’n Save Warehouse Foods, which reported 60 layoffs in Collinsville.

aelejalderuiz@chicagotribune.com