Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Master Lock Closing Milwaukee Manufacturing Plant

Union says 330 jobs being outsourced.

By - May 25th, 2023 10:42 am
Master Lock manufacturing plant, 2600 N. 32nd St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Master Lock manufacturing plant, 2600 N. 32nd St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Security device manufacturer Master Lock is closing its Milwaukee manufacturing plant at N. 32nd St. and W. Center St.

The company notified employees at the plant late Wednesday. United Auto Workers Region 4 said it represents approximately 330 employees at the complex, which spans more than six acres in the city’s 30th Street Corridor.

“We are disgusted, yet again, as another profitable corporation has decided to close the doors of a manufacturing icon in corporate America’s never-ending quest for profit, without any regard for the people amassing their wealth,” said the union in a Facebook post.

Master Lock was founded in Milwaukee in 1921. It was sold in 1970 by the descendants of founder Harry Soref to a predecessor of Fortune Brands Innovations. The publicly-traded holding company, which continues to own the business and several others, is based in Deerfield, IL.

“I am enormously disappointed by the impending closure of the Master Lock facility.  It is a slap in the face to the hardworking Milwaukee employees. They certainly deserve greater respect and appreciation from their company,” said Mayor Cavalier Johnson in a statement. “As of this morning, Fortune Brands has not reached out to me, and I have heard no logical explanation for their actions.”

Job postings on the company’s website point to a manufacturing plant in Nogales, Mexico, near the Arizona border. The company has also long produced locks in China.

The company has operated its central city factory complex since 1939. President Barack Obama toured the plant in 2012 to praise the company for bringing more manufacturing jobs back to the United States.

Across the street, a long-shuttered Briggs & Stratton plant was recently redeveloped into The Community Within The Corridor affordable housing development and Master Lock donated all of the locks for the apartments.

Master Lock continues to maintain its 120,000-square-foot headquarters in Oak Creek. The complex was previously the headquarters for Midwest Airlines and, later, Bucyrus International. Master Lock leases the campus.

Nicholas Fink is the CEO of Fortune Brands. “[Fink] enjoys annual compensation of $10 million though his greed won’t tolerate $20 per hour UAW Members in Milwaukee. The average Master Lock employee would have to work 240 years to match Fink’s earnings,” said the union.

In 2019, the company said it had approximately 500 employees at the campus. A notice, which would contain detailed layoff figures, has not been posted on the Department of Workforce Development website.

The Common Council granted approval in 2019 for the company to secure the street grid around the property to limit access to the plant. The company’s central city property, according to city assessment records, covers 26.1 acres of land and stretches from W. Center St. to W. Meinecke Ave. and the 30th Street Corridor railroad tracks west to N. 33rd St. The buildings are all east of N. 32nd St., with the west side being a mix of vacant lots and surface parking. The main building, 2600 N. 32nd St., is a four-story brick building with several large additions. Homages to the company’s signature padlock can be founded throughout the complex, including a half-circle walking trail at the north end of a parking lot that gives the site a padlock appearance from above.

Master Lock provided the following statement a few hours after this article was first published.

Today, The Master Lock Company made the difficult decision to close our Milwaukee, Wisconsin, operations in March 2024. As part of this decision, the company will fully transition its manufacturing capability from the Milwaukee plant to our other North American and global manufacturing operations as well as external suppliers. In addition to optimizing our own resources, Master Lock’s external supplier capabilities have advanced significantly and have demonstrated the ability to achieve exceptional quality and service which will collectively benefit our stakeholders.

This decision is not a reflection of the skills, performance or commitment of the Milwaukee workforce, and it was not made lightly. Rather, this is an opportunity to continue to enhance our supply chain resilience, maximize potential growth of the business and maintain our competitiveness into the future.

Though the transition will take an extended period of time and the plant will not close until the end of March 2024, we wanted to provide as much advanced notice as possible to our associates. The company is committed to helping all of its displaced workers throughout the process by working closely with UAW Local #469 during effects bargaining to ensure a smooth transition.

We want to express our deepest gratitude to our entire Milwaukee team and the greater Milwaukee community for their dedication and commitment to the company.

President Barack Obama tours Master Lock Co. on Feb. 15, 2012. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

President Barack Obama tours Master Lock Co. on Feb. 15, 2012. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

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2 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Master Lock Closing Milwaukee Manufacturing Plant”

  1. Marty Ellenbecker says:

    That’s 4 1/2 blocks of industrial facility on a 5 1/2 block parcel with
    3 long-blocks bordering on rail service. It’s a short to moderate
    commute from thousands of homes.

    Think no small (or shortsighted) thoughts!

  2. TransitRider says:

    The 30th Street rail corridor would make an interesting alignment for the new N-S BRT that is being planned for 27th St.

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