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Maytag CEO Says U.S. Plants Must Cut Costs
May 14, 2004
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Maytag Corp. chairman and CEO Ralph Hake told shareholders that expenses at the company's U.S. plants must come down for the home appliance maker to remain competitive with cheaper imports.

The company is in the process of closing a 1,600-employee plant in Galesburg, IL, U.S. and moving production to Mexico. But Mr. Hake told shareholders attending the annual meeting there are no plans to shift more U.S. jobs there -- although the company does have space at the Mexico facility to accommodate future growth.

He said Maytag is struggling to compete against cheaper, imported appliances. With labor overseas so much cheaper, he said, having 96 percent of Maytag's work force still based in the U.S. is "not an advantage for Maytag."

He also said that consumers are more concerned about price than where their appliances are made. "It would be nice if people care where it was made, but they don't," he said.

Maytag is in the midst of negotiations with the union representing its flagship Newton, IA, U.S. plants, and cost-cutting has been a central issue. Mr. Hake said the Newton plants need to reduce expenses, but he also reiterated that the company currently has no plans to close more plants and his goal is to keep as many American jobs as possible.

Shareholders at the meeting also approved a proposal to have all members of the board stand for re-election every year. Shareholders have approved a similar plan in each of the past 5 years, but the board continues to reject it.

Mr. Hake said eliminating the provision could enable a third party to orchestrate removal of all sitting directors. (Associated Press)

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