Originally created 08/15/97

Textile plant closing; 200 could lose jobs



Two hundred Augusta textile workers could be out of jobs by the end of the month with the closing of a 5-year-old plant.

Workers at Amity Dying and Finishing in Augusta learned of the news Thursday afternoon when they read a notice posted on a company bulletinboard. According to one worker who refused to give her name from fear of losing her benefits, the notice said the plant would close Aug. 30.

The notice said information about severance pay and benefits would be announced after negotiations with the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees. UNITE represents about 150 of the plant's employees in a contract that went into affect in May.

"It did not have anything to do with the unionization. There were some financial problems there for some time," said Marc Silverman, an attorney with Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, who is representing the company.

Amity's contract with the union granted a 10 percent raise over three years, two additional holidays, a 401(k) retirement plan, and minimum pay for days when workers are sent home for lack of orders.

UNITE lost an election Wednesday to represent workers at two North Carolina plants for Fieldcrest Cannon. Some Amity workers speculated that the company postponed news of its closing to avoid influencing that election and to win favor with UNITE.

Phone calls to the union's spokesman Thursday afternoon were not returned.

Mr. Silverman said from his office in New York that he was reluctant to offer many details about the company because of the sensitive negotiation with UNITE. He even refused to release the names of Amity's parent company other than to say it was a partnership that included a subsidiary of Liz Claiborne Inc.

"We'd love to have someone come buy the plant, but I don't see much prospect of that," Mr. Silverman said.

Amity opened its factory at 1600 Dixon Airline Road and a warehouse at 1634 Olive Road in buildings that became available when another textile plant closed, he said. Amity struggled most of its existence to find ample demand for its products, he said.