Holliston Mills employees and management clash in Jan. 5 protest

A Review file photo of Holliston Mills after a fire at the plant in November of 2019

Around 50 employees of Holliston Mills gathered in front of the Church Hill factory’s security gate early Wednesday morning to protest unpaid wages.

Though the Review reached out to Holliston Holdings management numerous times and was unable to reach anyone, another local news source published a video of the confrontation between employees and management.

Employees began gathering at around 10 a.m., and, after the protest went on for around an hour, members of management agreed to meet with a union representative and four of the ‘shop stewards’ inside.

An unnamed employee in the video explained that employees are currently on a three-week furlough from the company and due to come back to work on Jan. 18. However, the employees have yet to receive their pay from the most recent pay period they worked.

“We’re still owed pay from back before Christmas,” said an unnamed employee.

After speaking with management inside, the union representative and ‘shop stewards’ came back out to address the gathered crowd.

“The employees weren’t paid from Holliston Mills, but the company is rectifying the problem, and we should be paid later on this week,” said Allen Aldridge, who is a Union Representative of Teamsters Local 519.

He noted that he suspects that the company will soon extend the furlough past Jan. 18. He also explained that, in addition to the 57 employees who are furloughed, another 33 have been laid off.

“We’re just here to let the company know, number one, that we want our money, and to find out what direction this company is going forward,” Aldridge added.

Aldridge further explained that the management personnel he spoke with let him know that, “They (management) is working hard at it, and we will be funded this week to get paid,” Aldridge said. “There is some positive stuff in the pipelines, but this place survives off security, which is the passports. At the end of the day, it has been a struggle for them since the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Holliston Mills manufactures cloth cover material used to cover books and luxury packaging. They are also the US Government’s preferred supplier of high-security passport cover material, according to their website.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the travel industry, Holliston’s manufacturing of passport coverings has slowed.

Holliston management personnel Billy Adkins and Matt Kiehne came out of the building to address the gathered crowd after they had been outside for around an hour.

However, when Adkins and Kiehne saw that media personnel were present, they asked the employees to move into the plant property and behind the security gate in order to address the crowd.

Several members of the crowd became angry and asked management to speak in front of the media. The crowd then took a vote and agreed to remain on the street and not follow Adkins and Kiehne into the plant.

Several employees in the crowd then spoke up, saying that they wanted the conversation to take place in the presence of the media.

“You’re not going to say anything different over there, so why not just say it here?” one employee said to the management.

“What difference does it make?” said another employee. “It’s not a secret.”

“We need to do this in a different manner,” Kiehne replied.

“We can speak for management, but we don’t speak for ownership,” Adkins told the crowd. “I don’t want to speak out of turn for what management may want to say or not say.”

The Holliston Mills plant was acquired by the Knoxville-based corporation called Holliston Holdings, LLC in 2017.

Several members of the crowd also pointed out that Adkins and Kiehne’s pay was also being withheld by the company and said “you’re in the same boat.”

After a few minutes of back-and-forth, Adkins and Kiehne asked Aldridge and the shop stewards to relay the information management had told them. Adkins and Kiehne then went back inside the building without addressing the crowd.

A video of the protest will be linked to the online version of the article.