By  on April 27, 2009

The union that staffs Hugo Boss’ Cleveland factory claims the Metzingen, Germany-based company plans to close the facility next year and eliminate hundreds of jobs.

The factory, which has served as the center of Boss’ American suit production and distribution for 20 years, may go dark as soon as April 2010 when the union employees’ contract expires, according to leaders at Workers United. The facility, which produces 150,000 suits a year, employs more than 400 workers, 320 of which are union members.

Responding to the union’s contentions, Philipp Wolff, director of communications for Hugo Boss AG, said, “We have not made any strategic decisions. We are evaluating our global business needs in regards to customer demands and will communicate any decisions once they are finalized.”

According to Dallas Sells, director of the Ohio State Council for Workers United, attorneys representing Hugo Boss recently met with union leaders to discuss closing the factory and initiate negotiations for union employees’ severance.

Sells said the membership has refused severance and will fight the facility’s closure. “Without our consent, the operation has to continue in some form,” Sells said, noting the contract could prevent shutting the facility completely.

The union also said Boss has begun to relocate its distribution facility from Cleveland to Savannah, Ga., and with it, 15 warehouse jobs.

Boss took over the facility in 1989 when it acquired Ohio-based tailored clothing company Joseph & Feiss Co., which had been making suits in Cleveland since the 19th century.

The factory’s potential closure highlights the continued decline of the nation’s tailored clothing manufacturing — a market that once supported thousands of workers and countless brands. Today, only Individualized Apparel Group, JA Apparel and Hugo Boss operate sizable clothing factories in the U.S., and Southwick, now owned by Brooks Brothers, last week unveiled a new state-of-the-art facility in Haverhill, Mass.

Workers United is a new organization that split a few weeks ago from UNITE HERE, the largest apparel labor union in the U.S.

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