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Bill Seeks Compensation From Firms Leaving Area

By Eileen M. Smith

A Boston-based organization of labor and community groups has introduced a bill to the state legislature which would prevent corporations from relocating without compensating employees or the community.

Had such a bill been in effect when the Advent Corporation, a major manufacturer of stereo equipment, decided to leave Cambridge late last year, the company would have had to give employees a year's advance notice, Karen Zweig, labor advocate for the Massachusetts Social and Economic Opportunity Council, said yesterday.

She added that employees "could have explored other options, or influenced the company to change its mind" within that time period.

Thomas M. Gallagher, director of Where Have our Jobs Gone and a spokesman for the Coalition to Save Jobs, sponsor of the bill, said the legislation, if enacted, would affect companies with more than 50 employees which plan to close down, move, or lay off large numbers of workers. Bankrupt companies would be exempt, he added.

Zweig said that under the bill, Advent employees would have received severance at the rate of one week's pay per year with the company. "They're not getting any severance now," she added.

A third provision of the bill would require corporations which are relocating to deposit an amount equal to 15 per cent of their employees' gross earnings in a community fund, Zweig said.

"We feel that the money a corporation has made to invest in Singapore, or wherever, came from this state, and they have a responsibility to put it back in" when they leave, Gallagher said.

He added that there are no exact figures kept on how many jobs have left the state, "probably because the state finds it embarrassing."

A private survey conducted by Carol Katz, who graduate from the School of Design in 1978, showed that in the last 18 years, 788 company closings within Massachusetts have resulted in a net loss of 120,000 jobs to the state.

Gallagher said his group is aiming at large corporations and conglomerates. "We want to combat the image that our bill will put struggling small companies out of business," he added.

State Rep. Melvin H. King, who supports the bill, said yesterday he thinks it "is going to have a tough time. We have the unions on our side, such as the United Auto Workers (UAW), but the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) have been lobbying in full against us." Former Advent employees have already spoken in support of the legislation.

King said those who object to the bill feel it would make the state less attractive to industry. He added that an April 10 meeting will allow both sides to speak before the legislature.

Representatives of the UAW and the AIM were unavailable for comment yesterday.

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