AUBURN — The Eaton Corp. clutch factory in Auburn closed permanently April 30, ending employment for a reported 84 remaining hourly workers and an undisclosed number of salaried employees.

The company had given notice in early November 2020 that it intended to close its Eaton Vehicle Division plant in Auburn by May. It said the closure would result in the permanent layoff of 108 employees.

Eaton blamed shrinking demand for the truck components it made in Auburn.

“There has been a decline in volume for legacy heavy duty transmissions” as the market transitions to automated truck transmission, Cara Klaer, senior manager of communications for Eaton Vehicle Group, said in November. “The Auburn facility produces angle spring clutches for legacy manual and automated heavy duty transmissions.”

The closing ends 85 years of production at the plant on Auburn’s near-west side. Founded as Auburn Clutch in 1936, the Auburn factory was owned by Dana Corp. from 1947 to 1997. Eaton acquired the Auburn clutch factory from Dana Corp. in 1997.

UAW Local 164 represented hourly workers at the Auburn plant. In a letter to the editor of the Star, Brock Diederich of Garrett spoke for the local union committee.

“To the community, to the city and to the county, we are grateful for our existence,” Diederich wrote. “To have been fortunate enough to carry on an ideal, a belief, for so many years in one place, can only be met with gratitude.”

Diederich said the union is choosing not to criticize Eaton Corp. and its members feel sad, not angry. He praised the final 84 hourly employees for reporting to work loyally until the end.

The plant at one time employed more than 500 people, Diederich noted, praising its excellent benefits and work environment.

U.S. Department of Labor reports show that UAW Local 164 at Eaton had 377 members in 2003 and 318 as recently as 2011. Membership dropped sharply to 76 in 2012, and the union stood at 98 members on Dec. 31, 2019.
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