ST. CHARLES, u u•
By Alan Anspaugh
What many have feared for years soon may happen:
The Howell Co. in St. Charles may close.
Howell General Manager Arnold Hoenke told
workers Monday the company "wants to discuss
discontinuing operations in St. Charles."
Hoenke said "economic conditions" have caused
the firm to decide "in the near future" whether to
continue plant operations. If the company closes,
about 150 office and factory workers will be left
A strike by factory workers has continued since Oct,
16, when the firm's contract with the International
Assn. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers expired.
Negotiators have met at least twice, but both sides
reportedly are "miles apart" on an agreement.
The 120-year-old company manufactures kitchen
furniture and other items. Rumors of its demise
began in 1975, when Interlake Inc. employed more
than 300 workers at the plant.
The company was sold to William Burd, president of
Burd Inc., who reportedly owns at least four plants in
Burd was attending the Dallas Furniture Market
this week and could not be reached for comment.
Hoenke declined to say what has caused the firm's
reported financial trouble, but he said some contracts
have been lost, "may primarily because of the
"We were having a difficult time prior to the strike,
and the strike aggravated the situation," he said.
Union representative George Eigenhauser
downplayed the strike's role in the company's ap-
"If they (Howell officials) want to continue in St.
Charles, all they have to do is make a decent offer and
I'll take it to the people for a vote," Eigenhauser said.
"We bailed them out the last two times (the firm
settled contracts) , but we won't take another substan-
dard increase," he said.
Eigenhauser said Howell officials could have
avoided the present strike if they had acted before it
"Management was notified when the people turned
down the contract (in mid-October) . They were told
that the union was available to meet with them before
the strike began," he said.
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(Continued from page 1)
The first negotiating session occurred Oct. 22, and
the last meeting was Dec. 13. Both proved fruitless.
Hoenke declined to say what contracts the firm lost
recently, but a major deal. with Montgomery Ward
reportedly fell through during the first week of the
Eigenhauser said workers will continue to picket the
South First Street plant until it closes or a settlement
1 The more than 80 factory workers receive a union
1 strike paycheck equal to about a third of their normal
1 checks, but they are not eligible to collect unemploy-
meat compensation "because it is a labor dispute," he
Workers will be able to collect unemployment
checks if the company folds.
Howell was founded in 1860 in Geneva and made the
transition from cast-iron implements to metal fur-
niture in 1923. The company pioneered tubular steel in
1929, and its innovations were recognized during the
Chicago and New York World's-Fairs during tyhe
Howell moved to St. Charles in 1937, needing room
for expansion despite the Depression. Its current
building was occupied by the Cable Piano Co., then the
world's largest manufacturer of pianos arid organs.
During World W ar II, its production of shell casings,
mess trays, airplane wings and fuselages earned
Howell the Navy "E" award.
Area residents have long considered the company a
"permanent fixture" on the Fox Valley's business
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