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Crenlo threatens to close Rochester facilities

Crenlo Engineered Cabs in Rochester, owned by California-based Angeles Equity Partners, recently surprised its workers with a threat to close the facilities which have operated here for 69 years unless the union is willing renegotiate its less than 1-year-old labor contract.

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The Crenlo plant at 2501 Valleyhigh Dr. NW, Monday, October 26, 2020. (Ken Klotzbach / kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)
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Crenlo Engineered Cabs, which employs almost 500 people at three Rochester facilities, is considering closing its plants here, unless the employees renegotiate their labor contract.

Crenlo, which makes cabs for heavy equipment and tractors, was acquired by California-based Angeles Equity Partners in November.

The 69-year-old Crenlo has facilities at 1600 Fourth Ave. NW and 2501 Valleyhigh Drive NW. Emcor Enclosures , a Crenlo division that makes metal boxes for the electronics, security, medical device and solar energy markets, operates in a third facility. Emcor moved last summer into production space in the Rochester Technology Campus, formerly the IBM campus.

Crenlo recently surprised the UAW Local 2125, which represents the manufacturer's workers, with a letter stating that it is “reviewing various business strategies.”

“While no decisions have been finalized, alternatives being discussed include vacating our facilities in Rochester. Among other things, we have been present with an opportunity to sell Plant #2 (at 2501 Valleyhigh Drive NW),” according to the letter sent by Crenlo leadership to the union on Sept. 24.

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The letter added that “... the timing on these issues is relatively short, as early as November 1."

The union and Crenlo negotiated and signed the current labor contract in December 2019, just as Angeles Equity was taking ownership of Crenlo. The contract runs through 2024, so changing the contract less than a year into it would be unusual.

Adding to the tension of the situation is that all of the company officials that were involved with the December contract have been terminated by the new owners. The current Crenlo leaders, including the CEO, Matthew Karmel , and the chief financial officer, John Lenga, have all stepped into the jobs within the past few months.

When contacted about the proposal to negotiate the labor contract, Crenlo Human Resources Director Kim Ingalls said there was not much the company would say at this point.

“We’ve reached out to the union representatives and we cannot comment on our discussions,” she said.

On Oct. 2, Crenlo sent a letter to all of its employees to detail the contract concessions that “it feels are necessary to remain in Rochester.”

Changes included significantly cutting the raises guaranteed in the December contract.

The 2.5 percent raise scheduled for December 2020 would drop to 1 percent, as would the 3 percent increase in 2021 and the 2.5 percent increase in 2022. The 2.5 percent increase would decline to 1.5 percent.

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The concessions also included changes to the dental and medical plans, overtime calculations, holiday pay eligibility and other issues.

Local 2125 President and Crenlo machine operator Troy Arnold said the union has met with the Crenlo leaders. The union’s position is that the membership needs to vote on the unusual situation of renegotiating the contract.

Arnold has proposed voting off-site, away from the Crenlo facilities. The union had the expectation that Crenlo would pay to rent an off-site facility for one day and would give employees time off to vote in shifts of 70 to 80 people for safety during the pandemic.

Troy Arnold
Troy Arnold

When the union made the proposal for the vote, Ingalls told Arnold that the company was not willing to pay for an off-site vote on the issue. That created a stalemate between the two sides that leaves the vote on the contract proposal in limbo.

The company’s communication so far has left the union with a lot of questions. The letter to employees about the proposal only mentions committing “to producing viable John Deere lines, aluminum product lines, and robotic powder paint, in Rochester, over the duration of the contract.”

There is no mention of Crenlo’s other contracts or what these changes might mean for Emcor. Arnold said many of the workers are concerned that even if they agree to the contract changes, Crenlo will still close its doors in Rochester, which is the one thing the company has been clear is a possibility.

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“The threat is there. That’s about all we know for certain,” he said.

The situation leaves the longtime Rochester company’s future uncertain. Crenlo was founded in Rochester in 1951 by R.R. Cresswell, John Enblom and W.W. Lowther. The company's name is an amalgam of the first two letters of the last names of the three men who started it.

After decades of local ownership, it was sold to publicly owned Dover Diversified Inc. in 1999. In 2011, it was purchased by New York-based KPS Capital Partners. Angeles Equity purchased Crenlo from KPS.

Related Topics: MANUFACTURING
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