FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) – U.S. Sen. Ed Markey is stepping up his criticism of Philips Lighting after its president refused to revisit a decision to close its Fall River plant and move the jobs there to Mexico.
Manufacturing employees at Philips’ Airport Road plant, who are represented by the IBEW Local 1499 union, were informed last week they will lose their jobs. Markey, D-Mass., said he spoke with Philips Americas President Chris White on Monday, and the conversation did not go well.
“There are 166 families in Fall River who are owed an apology and an explanation,” Markey said in a statement. “My phone call with Mr. White was discouraging and confirmed to me this decision was basically a race to the bottom – a move to cut good paying jobs in exchange for cheaper labor in Mexico.”
“Philips Lighting should be ashamed of announcing it will ship good-paying jobs from Fall River to Mexico,” Markey added. The senator’s chief of staff said White acknowledged during the call that he has never visited the Fall River plant.
Markey said he and other Massachusetts lawmakers will continue to pressure Philips to change its mind about the Fall River factory, as well as to protect the company’s other 222 jobs in the Bay State. The company has told media outlets the “difficult” decision will help streamline its operations.
Separately on Tuesday, Democratic Congressman Joe Kennedy III said he sent a letter to Philips questioning why it was closing the Fall River plant at the same time that its board has authorized $187 million in stock buybacks, which will boost the value of Philips shareholders’ portfolios.
“The tax cut signed into law by President Trump last year was intended to incentivize further investment by companies into their products and workforces but Philips Lighting has chosen instead to use that largesse to reward stockholders and further outsource American jobs,” Kennedy wrote in the letter, which was co-signed by other members of the state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation.