Sub-Zero layoffs just the latest in manufacturing sector - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Sub-Zero layoffs just the latest in manufacturing sector


FITCHBURG (WKOW) -- It appears like any other day at the Fitchburg factory of Sub Zero Freezer / Wolf Appliance, but the days have been slower lately.

While some here saw the writing on the wall, a recently announced layoff of up to 350 workers on or after May 1 is still tough to swallow.

"I was stunned," said Dave Goodspeed, the business agent for the Local 565 Steelworkers Union. "We had expected layoffs, but we hadn't contemplated quite that many." He described the jobs at Sub-Zero as good paying, generally between $16 and $19 per hour.

Goodspeed said workers will soon receive word on retraining, and unemployment instructions...

It's a story playing out across Wisconsin, just this month manufacturers from Marinette to Prairie du Chien announced their plans to layoff workers in the near future.

In Sub-Zero's case, the recession and the housing slump both play parts. There's not the same demand for new homes where those new refrigerators and freezers usually land.

The news across the entire manufacturing sector also offers little hope those workers can jobs elsewhere in the short-term. "Given the state of manufacturing in the U.S., with all the jobs that have been outsourced in recent years, not very good," said Goodspeed.

"Right now, there's a lot of people with questions, and we don't have answers," he added.

To show the scope of what's happened to manufacturing in Wisconsin in the past year, the state lost more than 31,000 jobs in the sector from January 2008 to January 2009. That was the largest drop in any one area, according to data from the state Department of Workforce Development.

Retail followed with 11,600 fewer positions.  Construction was close behind at 11,000 layoffs.  Leisure and hospitality saw about 5,500 layoffs.

The only sectors that saw growth were healthcare, education, and local and federal governments.

Email Carl Agnelly at


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