Polartec Workers Urge Patagonia To Purchase Company, Save Factory

BOSTON, Mass. — June 9, 2016 — Polartec workers and their supporters are urging Patagonia, a longtime partner of Polartec, to acquire the textile company and maintain its operation in Lawrence — in one of the few surviving mills with a direct connection to the early 20th century textile industry and the “Bread and Roses” strike of 1912.

In a letter to Patagonia’s CEO, Rose Marcario, a coalition of allies and experts has joined workers in asking Patagonia to take ownership of Polartec. Patagonia and Polartec have had an ongoing relationship for decades. Together, they jointly developed synthetic fleece, which Patagonia was the first to introduce to the outdoor sportswear market. They also developed premium fleece from recycled content and from post-consumer plastic bottles. This long-standing relationship has assisted Patagonia in becoming a global leader in performance clothing.

Polartec recently issued a WARN [Worker Adjustment and Retraining] notice concerning its plan to close down its mill in Lawrence. This decision will adversely affect hundreds of mostly immigrant, unionized workers (members of UNITE HERE) with an average of 18 years experience, as well as their families. The negative effects of a closing would reverberate throughout Lawrence, which is two-thirds Latino and one of the poorest cities in New England (with 33 percent of incomes under the poverty line). By purchasing the company, experts believe that Patagonia would secure environmental and quality standards, save a living piece of American labor history, and preserve 350 good jobs.

According to Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera: “These are some of the most experienced textile workers in the country, in a factory that was built for a very high level of innovation and quality. Although Polartec’s private equity owners have refused to discuss their options with us, we would welcome the opportunity to work with Patagonia to ensure that this factory can continue to operate under new ownership and remain in Lawrence.”

“Patagonia has said that companies should be held accountable for the impact of their decisions on employees, communities, and the environment,” says University of Massachusetts at Lowell Professor Robert Forrant. “Here is an amazing opportunity for Patagonia to demonstrate that commitment with Polartec, a company with which it is already deeply connected.”

Private equity firm Versa Capital acquired Polartec in 2007, calling the Lawrence mill “state of the art” as recently as 2012. Twenty years ago, then-owner Aaron Feuerstein was hailed as a symbol of corporate decency when he kept workers on the payroll while re-building the mill after a disastrous fire.

Posted June 10, 2016