Tobacco maker plans to leave Illinois

Tobacco maker plans to leave Illinois

Altria announces plant closures in Illinois and Pennsylvania.

In another blow for Illinois factory workers, Altria, formerly known as Phillip Morris, has announced plans to close its Franklin Park, Ill., facility by early 2018, according to a report in Crain’s Chicago Business. Altria produces well-known tobacco products including Marlboro, Virginia Slims, Parliaments, and Black and Mild brand cigars. The Franklin Park location produces the smokeless tobacco brands Skoal and Copenhagen.

The Franklin Park plant closure will affect 300 Illinois workers, who will have a choice to transfer to Altria’s facilities in Richmond, Va., or Nashville, Tenn.

Altria also plans to shutter a plant in Limerick, Pa., and has not elaborated on how many workers will lose their jobs as a result of the closures, according to Crain’s. The company announced it has 200 jobs available, but with 300 workers at the Franklin Park location and 280 workers at the Limerick facility, there may not be enough positions to go around.

Altria’s plan to scuttle the factories comes on the heels of a poor quarterly report, which revealed a 29 percent dip in sales.

Interestingly, the two states where Altria plans to relocate operations – Tennessee and Virginia –are Right-to-Work states. Right-to-Work laws allow workers to choose whether to join or pay money to a union. Illinois and Pennsylvania, by contrast, do not have Right-to-Work laws, a disadvantage when it comes to attracting businesses.

Earlier in October, Merisant and Colbert Packaging both announced plans to leave the Land of Lincoln in favor of Right-to-Work states. While critics demonize Right-to-Work laws as bad for workers, the data suggest otherwise. Manufacturing workers in neighboring Indiana, a Right-to-Work state, earned more than their Illinois counterparts after adjusting for taxes and cost-of-living. Michigan, another Right-to-Work state, created over 170,000 manufacturing jobs since the Great Recession while Illinois hasn’t seen a net increase in manufacturing jobs since 2014.

Evidence shows public support for the principles behind Right to Work. Polling from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute suggests that a large plurality of Illinoisans agree with the idea that workers should not have to pay money to an organization with which they disagree.

If Illinois lawmakers want to stop the hemorrhaging of manufacturing jobs, they should pass a statewide Right-to-Work law, or at the very least encourage counties and municipalities to pass local Right-to-Work laws, like Lincolnshire. Other pro-growth actions necessary to attract manufacturers include capping Illinois’ high property taxes, encouraging government consolidation to keep costs down and the taxes that fund government operations in check and reforming Illinois’ costly workers’ compensation system.

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