Wigwam Mills Inc., a Sheboygan-based maker of socks, is cutting nearly all its jobs because of the effect the COVID-19 coronavirus has had on operations and sales.
In a notice sent to state officials, the company said it would permanently lay off 121 of its 142 total employees.
“This virus has dramatically impacted Wigwam Mills because most of the sales orders previously placed with Wigwam have been dramatically and suddenly curtailed resulting in a loss of business resulting in these permanent layoffs,” the notice said.
More than 90 of the positions are represented by the International Chemical Workers, Union Council of the UFCW 147T. Wigwam said it would honor the seniority and recall rights included in the current labor contract.
“The company will continue operations but with a substantially reduced manufacturing and administrative operation in Sheboygan,” the notice said.
Chris Chesebro, general manager - operations, said the company does plan to continue some production in Shebogyan but will also look to work with other organizations to make products elsewhere in the U.S.
The Sheboygan Press reported that the company said it was “not realistic for us to assume that manufacturing can resume with the same number of employees that have previously worked with us.”
In a press release, Chesebro and Margaret Newhard, general manager - administrative, said operations needed to dramatically change out of necessity.
"We are navigating in an uncertain retail environment and the return of demand is truly unknown. For us to succeed, we need to focus on what we do best and continue to go to market with a targeted product assortment that reflects our exceptional design and quality standards," Chesebro and Newhard said.
Wigwam has been making products in the U.S. since 1905.
"This tradition of excellence will continue despite the effects of COVID 19 which have caused us to reduce our manufacturing output," the duo said in the release. "While the pandemic left us with no choice but to permanently layoff employees, we still maintain the strength and skills to continue to meet the needs of our loyal customers."
Get more news and insight in the May 25 issue of BizTimes Milwaukee. Subscribe to get updates in your inbox here.