The Remington Outdoor Company and its subsidiary Remington Arms stood on a shaky foundation in their last few years of existence. None truly felt the effects of this foundation crumbling than the manufacturing workers of these companies, specifically those working in the heart of the company at the plant in Ilion, New York. With a litany of furloughs, temporary shutdowns, and layoffs occurring since 2017, often as a means of cutting costs, the workers of Remington were often in a state of uncertainty regarding whether or not they would remain employed as the company dealt with the looming issues of bankruptcy. It was in 2020 though that the uncertainty of the plant reached an apex, resulting in the disenfranchisement of several hundred workers. In late 2020 the Remington Company would prove to be one of is not the greatest failure of capitalism in the Mohawk Valley region.
Adding to the pattern of shutdowns and furloughs that plagued the Ilion plant from 2017 to 2020, in September of the latter year the company announced that there would be a plant wide furlough going into effect on September 24th. The message was spread through an email that the workers received not long after reporting for duty that same day, effectively both wasting the time, gas, and other such resources of the employees while slapping them in the face with the prospect that they’ll be away from their primary means of income indefinitely. The workers would only be receiving pay from Remington for another handful of days until they would be forced to navigate the maze that is applying for unemployment at a time when doing so was excessively tiresome, i.e. the Covid-19 pandemic. Though modicums of optimism were maintained that there would be a return to work soon, that optimism would soon be crushed with the onset of something even more devastating than a temporary furlough.
Approximately one month after the furlough’s initiation, workers at the Ilion Remington plant were met with yet another impersonal message. On October 25th, as a result of the company’s bankruptcy and the asset sales in line with the bankruptcy process, nearly 600 workers found themselves officially terminated. The company communicated this through a mass phone call with a pre-recorded message a few days prior. Furloughs present their own challenges to workers, but this mass layoff left the former employees with new, more dire issues thrust upon them.
Former employees were thrown into even further uncertainty upon notice of termination. Effective on Halloween of that year, the 585 workers would lose all benefits and incentives including health insurance, life insurance, and other prospects vital to human life. Less than a week after being handed a sudden elimination of employment, the already disenfranchised people were having any semblance of a safety net ripped away from them. Access to the Ilion site would likewise be severely restricted and workers’ accessing their 401k accounts became a difficult task. The biggest slap in the face, according to both the workers and their union, the United Mine Workers of America, is that in this mass layoff the Remington Outdoor Company would not be issuing any severance pay or paying their accrued vacation benefits. This is a direct violation of the collective bargaining agreement that had been made between the company and the union. Jeff Madison, then-president of the Ilion chapter of the UMWA, put it in the best way possible, inadvertently describing how capitalism and capitalists see the proletariat as nothing more than replaceable cogs, dehumanizing them and alienating them from their labor and labor-power. “I’ve been there 19 years. Apparently, I wasn’t worth anything. They don’t want to abide by the terms of the contract.”
Workers and the union would not simply sit idly and allow themselves to be denied what they were rightfully owed from “Old Remington.” On October 28th, the UMWA along with others supporting them in their struggle initiated a picket line in Ilion to protest the company’s refusal to honor their contractual obligations. Union members utilized this picket as a means to express their discontent, highlight the reason for their fight against company negligence, push the company to honor their contracts, and, whether they intended to or not, the mechanisms of capitalism. Protesters held signs illustrating their outrage and marched throughout parts of the village with members of the Utica IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) and members of various Teacher’s Associations marching in solidarity. Additional demonstrations would follow over the following few months, with solidarity efforts coming from local unions including the Teamsters, the Central New York Labor Council, and members of the New York State United Teachers Union.
As the UMWA engaged in their struggle, the effects that this mass layoff and history of misconduct perpetrated by Remington became more and more apparent. In addition to the problem of the company not meeting their contractual obligations with the union, the sudden lack of healthcare access proved to be one of the more ubiquitous issues faced by the workers. Having their health insurance torn from them with little to no time to find new coverage presented a new danger. This new danger is one of a specifically high level, considering that several hundred working class people and their families were being deprived of healthcare when the Covid-19 pandemic was still in full swing. As cited in The Militant, one Mark Bedworth stated in an article for The Wall Street Journal;
“Some of the guys and girls that I work with have life-threatening conditions that they need medication for and now I don’t know how they’re going to get that covered.”
Love and Rage would additionally draw attention to the concerns of Jennifer Angle, another union member facing the onset of Remington’s complete disregard for the well being of the people who kept their plant running for so long. Jennifer exclaims;
“I put my time in there. They should give me what I’m owed. My dad has diabetes; my family has health issues. Not having health insurance is a big issue.”
This disregard for the collective bargaining agreement that the “Old Remington” agreed to is shown to be only one of many instances of the company engaging in activity that excessively exploits the workers and lines up with anti-union practices. Remington workers have throughout the years sacrificed time with their families to work extended hours, weekends, and holidays. As UMWA representative Jamie Rudwall has said, “These families have paid the price of Remington’s success.” Another employee expressed that “Years ago there was no mandatory overtime. Now we are working 10 hours a day while there are layoffs.” Further condemnations of Remington exemplifying the mechanisms of capitalism that created so many problems for the plant workers include “the bosses are filling their pockets and emptying ours” as stated by Jacquie Sweeney of the union.
Remington withholds a history of shady operations, with a large lack of transparency regarding their financial proceedings in addition to their list of labor law violations. According to some involved in the struggle, there had been efforts for over half a decade attempting to push jobs out of Ilion in order to continue operations in areas where union and labor protections are immensely weaker. A new plant was established in Huntsville, Alabama, an explicit attempt at curtailing the power of the UMWA. This new plant exhibited the very characteristics of anti-unionism and the efforts of capitalism to cut costs and bolster their profit by whatever means. To quote the Love and Rage article;
“The union difference, both in the experience and skills that come with the workers in Ilion, but also in the difference in pay and benefits were stark. Remington did not live up to its promises in Alabama in terms of the number of workers hired, job security or even pay. The starting pay for many of the workers was $9.20 an hour compared to over $20 in the Ilion plant.”
Bourgeois politicians were on the scene at some pickets and while some efforts were made for material support, for the most part they paid only lip service to the cause of the disenfranchised Remington workers. Claiming to be displaying solidarity, then-Congressman Anthony Brindisi, Senator Chuck Schumer, and current Congresswoman Claudia Tenney expressed support for the laid off workers, with Brindisi and Tenney being physically present for at least one of the UMWA’s pickets. Both Brindisi and Schumer made calls for the National Labor Relations Board to get involved in this issue, in addition to the UMWA’s calls for NLRB involvement, and published messages showcasing their support for the union. Tenney, however, despite being the very candidate that the UMWA endorsed in the 2020 congressional election, expressed her support in a manner that can ultimately only be described as a pipedream. In addition to her message of support for the union in their picketing efforts, Tenney claimed that she had spoken to officials from the White House and that the message of the UMWA’s plight had reached then-President Donald Trump. The NLRB would eventually begin a legitimate investigation into Remington Arms and the situation as a whole, while nothing can be found regarding whether Donald Trump said or did anything about the UMWA getting the short end of the stick.
According to an article from Liberation News, in total the terminated Remington workers are owed over $500,000 in severance pay. Despite the contractual obligations, the bankruptcy proceedings provided a loophole that would allow the company the opportunity to deny fulfilling their collective bargaining agreement. To quote;
“Part of the bankruptcy process allows a business to reject collective bargaining agreements as long as the business can demonstrate that it has attempted to renegotiate a contract with the union. This clause in bankruptcy law could result in the court allowing Remington to reject the collective bargaining agreement that grants the workers at the Ilion plant severance benefits.”
Despite Remington’s assets being sold for $160 million, this money would be going towards paying debts to other capitalists rather than to the workers who put in thousands of hours generating revenue for them. Remington was a subsidiary of Cerberus Capital Management, an equity firm that as of 2023 holds assets worth upwards of $60 billion. Despite profits from Remington being under the control of Cerberus since 2007, the firm held no legal responsibility to aid in upholding the union contracts, effectively pushing those who actually created their profit to the side and leaving them for dead. CCM at the time of the Remington situation was controlling assets worth even more than they control in 2023, with their 2020 assets equaling $70 billion, at least according to the Liberation News article.
The “New Remington” that formed out of the company that purchased the Ilion factory has shown little promise in presenting better prospects for employment under the Remington banner. In December of 2020, approximately 200 former employees of Remington Arms were offered jobs by the new owners. This seems innocuous on the surface, but the fact that these job offers were being made in a way that tried to go around the establish labor contract held by the UMWA. The UMWA reported that any employment offers and any conditions within such offers had to be negotiated with the union. RemArms, the “New Remington” owned by Roundhill Group LLC, presented these job offers with conditions that were completely antagonistic to the existing labor contract that the workers and their union fought so hard for. Conditions laid out in these offers include making employment at the Ilion factory “at-will,” thus making it easier for the company to wrongfully terminate employees in addition to allowing the company to fire workers “at any time with or without notice.” On top of going around the union, the new company owners were seemingly trying to avoid contact with the union, as the UMWA made several attempts to reach out to Roundhill with no response for quite some time.
It would take until April of 2021 for the Ilion plant to reopen, with the UMWA and the RemArms Company reaching an agreement for bringing workers back into the building and working towards reopening early in the month. This agreement only came after several threats from Roundhill to keep the plant closed, creating the false prospect of the union engaging in a formal strike despite the union never releasing any statement calling for one or even hinting at striking at any point between October 2020 and April 2021, only further displaying the inherent anti-union and anti-worker attitudes held by the Roundhill Group and it’s CEO Richmond Italia. In the initial reopening only 65 former employees returned to work under the RemArms banner, with that number steadily increasing to the plant having 230 employees by May of that year. This number is of course miniscule compared to even the numbers prior to the 2020 shutdown, further symbolizing the steady decline of what was once a bastion of prosperity for the village of Ilion.
The “New Remington” would continue to face challenges as the Ilion plant worked to revitalize itself. Slightly under one year after finally ratifying a new contract with the union, the pattern of furloughs would keep repeating. March of 2022 would see 35 workers be placed on furlough for nearly a month citing an equipment issue with one of their manufacturing material vendors. Not unlike the time of struggle between the sale of the plant and the reopening, the union expressed concern over the lack of communication coming from RemArms. On top of the return of furloughs, the production of Remington’s Model 700 would be moved from Ilion, to LaGrange, Georgia, despite reports in the past saying that manufacturing would remain in the Mohawk Valley as revealed by a leaked internal memo. While workers from that line would simply be transitioned into the production of shotguns, thus protecting the employment status of those workers, this shift sees the production abilities of the Ilion plant being weakened, ultimately creating future uncertainty in the survival of RemArms in New York.
As far as can be seen based on the available news materials and statements from the United Mine Workers, the workers who were faced with the initial termination never received their due severance and accrued vacation pay from the “Old Remington.” The fight put on by the UMWA with support from the likes of teachers unions and the Industrial Workers of the World was valiant and one that should be admired, but unfortunately in this case the capitalists seem to have been able to use bankruptcy as a means of once more shafting the working class. This is of course a victory for the capitalists, with the various owners of Remington, whether they be directly involved in the company or they be from Cerberus, able to walk away from bankruptcy with massive wealth as the workers were left high and dry. The fall of the once prosperous Remington Outdoor Company, the ineptitude and instability of the succeeding RemArms company, and the potential for the decimation of a great deal of the Ilion and greater Mohawk Valley area proletariat that still lingers to this day upholds that Remington is to the workers, one of it not the greatest failure of capitalism in the Mohawk Valley.
 Keeler, Bill. "Remington Employees in Ilion Told to Prepare for Work Furlough." WIBX 950. October 18, 2017. https://wibx950.com/remington-employees-in-ilion-told-to-prepare-for-work-furlough/.
 Farris, Joleen. "Plant-Wide Furlough at Remington Arms; More Than 600 Affected." WKTV. September 25, 2020. Accessed through Archive.org. https://web.archive.org/web/20200926153913/https://www.wktv.com/content/news/plant-wide-furlough-at-remington-arms-more-than-600-affected-572525941.html.
 Keeler, Bill. "Here's How 600 Remington Workers Learned They Were Terminated." WIBX 950. October 25, 2020. https://wibx950.com/heres-how-600-remington-workers-learned-they-were-terminated/.
 Keeler. "Here's How 600 Remington Workers Learned They Were Terminated."
 "UMWA Responds to Remington Arms Refusal to Pay Severance to Terminated Employees." United Mine Workers of America. October 25, 2020. https://umwa.org/news-media/news/umwa-responds-to-remington-arms-refusal-to-pay-severance-to-terminated-employees/. Originally published by WKTV.
 Thompson, Donna. "Remington Arms Workers On Layoffs, Loss of Benefits: 'Apparently, I Wasn't Worth Anything'." Times Telegram. October 26, 2020. https://www.timestelegram.com/story/news/2020/10/26/remington-arms-workers-layoffs-apparently-wasnt-worth-anything/6043995002/.
 Thompson, Donna. "Remington Arms Workers In Ilion Protest Loss of Benefits." Times Telegram. October 26, 2020. https://www.timestelegram.com/story/news/2020/10/28/remington-arms-workers-ilion-rally-protest-over-lost-benefits/6056930002/.
 Dookhun, Ved. "NY Remington Workers March For Severance Pay, New Jobs." The Militant. December 21, 2020. https://themilitant.com/2020/12/12/ny-remington-workers-march-for-severance-pay-new-jobs/.
 Perasso, Jacob. "Laid Off NY Remington Workers Fight For Severance, Vacation Pay." The Militant. November 16, 2020. https://themilitant.com/2020/11/07/laid-off-ny-remington-workers-fight-for-severance-vacation-pay/.
 Maslauskas-Dunn, Brendan, and Elizabeth Meeks. "Nearly 600 Terminated Union Workers Vow to “Continue to Fight” Amidst “Catastrophic” Sale of Remington Arms." Love and Rage. November 4, 2020. https://loveandragemedia.org/2020/11/04/nearly-600-terminated-union-workers-vow-to-continue-to-fight-amidst-catastrophic-sale-of-remington-arms/.
 Thompson. “Remington Arms Workers In Ilion Protest Loss of Benefits.”
 Perasso. “Laid Off NY Remington Workers Fight For Severance, Vacation Pay.”
 Mason, Greg. "Remington Cited For 27 Health, Safety Violations." Observer-Dispatch. April 3, 2019. https://www.uticaod.com/story/news/2019/04/03/remington-cited-for-27-health/5541481007/.
 Jobs were also being moved in response to the New York SAFE Act, however the efforts to move production to an area where the company could pay workers significantly less fits well within anti-union tactics.
 Maslauskas-Dunn, Meeks. "Nearly 600 Terminated Union Workers Vow to “Continue to Fight” Amidst “Catastrophic” Sale of Remington Arms."
 "Remington Workers Rally Together to Demand Company Pay Severance Benefits." United Mine Workers of America. October 28, 2020. https://umwa.org/news-media/news/remington-workers-rally-together-to-demand-company-pay-severance-benefits/. Originally published by WKTV.
 Thompson. “Remington Arms Workers In Ilion Protest Loss of Benefits.”
 "National Labor Relations Board To Investigate Remington Arms." Observer-Dispatch. November 3, 2020. https://www.uticaod.com/story/news/2020/11/02/national-labor-relations-board-investigate-remington-arms-brindisi/6134216002/.
 Quinn, Keegan. "Remington Workers Terminated Without Severance, Billionaire Owners Not Held Accountable." Liberation News. December 30, 2020. https://www.liberationnews.org/remington-workers-terminated-without-severance-billionaire-owners-not-accountable/.
 Moriarty, Rick. "Union Accuses Remington Arms’ New Owner in Ilion of Going Around It With Job Offers." Syracuse.com. December 22, 2020. https://www.syracuse.com/business/2020/12/union-accuses-remington-arms-new-owner-in-ilion-of-going-around-it-with-job-offers.html.
 Thompson, Donna. "Offers to Former Remington Workers Bring Confusion, Concerns." Times Telegram. December 22, 2020. https://www.timestelegram.com/story/news/2020/12/22/remington-arms-sale-roundhill-group-offer-raises-worker-concerns/3989613001/.
 "UMWA Reaches Letter of Agreement With RemArms to Pave Way for Reopening of Ilion Plant." United Mine Workers of America. April 2, 2021. https://umwa.org/news-media/press/umwa-reaches-letter-of-agreement-with-remarms-to-pave-way-for-reopening-of-ilion-plant/.
 "Remington's New Owner Talks Strike, Union Says No Way." United Mine Workers of America. February 4, 2021. https://umwa.org/news-media/news/remingtons-new-owner-talks-strike-union-says-no-way/. Originally published by the Times Union.
 Coe, Jackee. "Remington's New Owner Talks Strike, Union Says No Way." Observer-Dispatch. November 9, 2021. https://www.uticaod.com/story/news/2021/11/09/remington-arms-timeline-new-york/6343747001/.
 Schneider, H. Rose. "CEO: 35 Remington Arms Workers in Ilion Furloughed Due to Vendor Equipment Repairs." Observer-Dispatch. March 4, 2022. https://www.uticaod.com/story/news/2022/03/04/35-remington-arms-workers-ilion-furloughed-equipment-issues/9374201002/.
 Keeler, Bill. "CEO: 35 Remington Arms Workers in Ilion Furloughed Due to Vendor Equipment Repairs." WIBX 950. January 18, 2023. https://wibx950.com/remington-moving-model-700-production-line-out-of-ilion/.
J.N. Cheney is an aspiring Marxist historian with a BA in history from Utica College. His research primarily focuses on New York State labor history, as well as general US socialist history. He additionally studies facets of the past and present global socialist movement including the Soviet Union, the DPRK, and Cuba.