MILTON — Officials with ACF Industries have not yet responded to requests for comment on rumors swirling throughout the community that the Milton facility will be closing its doors at the end of the year.
Several sources, two of whom said they were employees and all of whom asked to remain anonymous, told The Standard-Journal on Thursday that employees received a letter stating the plant will be closing its doors Dec. 31. Their stories mirrored one another.
Employees at a Milton convenience store also reported hearing similar comments from ACF employees.
Another person, an employee, said he was not at work Thursday afternoon, but he recently heard rumors the company wanted all work to cease by Jan. 1.
Officials at the ACF Industries plant in Milton and at the corporate headquarters in St. Charles, Mo., did not return messages left by The Standard-Journal on Thursday.
A representative from the United Steelworkers Union Press Association Coordinators said he would have a director return a request by The Standard-Journal for comment. As of press time, the director had not responded.
Rumors of the closure come on the heels of ACF Industries filing a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN).
Milton Mayor Ed Nelson reported during a September borough council meeting that he received the WARN letter, dated Aug. 14, from ACF Industries President and CEO Michael Farmakis.
Nelson read parts of the letter during that meeting. It said one-third of ACF’s Local Unit 1928 unionized employees could be laid off “if new orders are not obtained. “
“Although we hope that we will be able to replace the contract for the production of tank cars that is expiring and not experience significant changes to our staffing, it is necessary… to advise you of a potential layoff,” the letter said.
According to Nelson, the letter said “it is expected that the separation will start in or about the 14-day period beginning Oct. 14, and could be followed by additional staff reductions over the course of the ensuing weeks.”
Following that meeting, Nelson said based on other documents he received from the company 150 employees could be laid off. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industries website listed 63 as the number of employees to be impacted by layoffs.
“The duration of these layoffs is undetermined because of the uncertainty of available orders for our products to be manufactured at the Milton plant,” Nelson said, while reading from the letter during the meeting. “In all likelihood, they will be six months in duration or possibly longer.”
Nelson said on Thursday he has received no further communications from ACF. However, he said it was his understanding the company can take any further actions regarding the plant — including a possible closure — as it has already filed the WARN notification.
Nelson read a similar letter from Farmakis at a November 2015 meeting. At that time, an estimated 130 workers were facing the possibility of being laid off as the facility’s contract for producing tank cars was set to expire.
ACF had a major cutback in 2009, when the company laid off most of its 300 workers.
Union officials confirmed in 2012 that an agreement had been reached for the plant to resume operation in 2013. ACF officials said at that time that over 300 employees would be called back to work at the facility.
Former Gov. Tom Corbett visited Milton in June 2013 and announced that ACF received $483,000 in state funding from the Governor’s Action Team. The funds were used for machinery and equipment purchases, as well as employee training.
ACF Industries has roots in Milton dating back to 1864, according to “Chronicles and Legends of Milton” by George Venios. It was founded as Milton Car Works and owned by Murray, Dougal and Company.
By 1874, the facility employed over 500 individuals. According to Venios’ book, the facility was acquired by the American Car and Foundry Company in 1899.