The Alabama plant closed in Shoals just months after receiving $ 10 million in federal payroll protection.
ProPublica reports that at least one of the 550 employees who lost their jobs said the decision to close the FreightCar America plant in Colbert County was just a temporary measure aimed at getting the Mexican plant up and running with lower labor costs.
“When the Mexico plant opened, we were initially told that they would just help Shoals and make train parts,” said Robert Balman, who worked at the Alabama plant for seven years before being fired last year. “But all the time it was a setup, we weren’t there.”
After the closure of the Cherokee plant, FreightCar America relocated production to its Castanos, Mexico subsidiary. It was the company’s last 120-year-old American facility. In a statement last year, the company linked these steps to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on wagon demand.
FreightCar America has built several types of railroad cars at the plant, which opened in 2008. At the Cherokee plant, FreightCar has been operating since 2013, when it subleased 25 percent of the Navistar plant. In 2018, FreightCar announced the acquisition of Navistar assets. In 2019, the company closed its Roanoke, Virginia plant and shifted the work to the Cherokee.
According to ProPublica, Jim Meyer, CEO of FreightCar America, said in an email that he did not intend to close the plant when he received the PPP money, but that the money allowed the company to keep workers on the job for much of 2020 despite the sharp price cuts. … loss of new orders.