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Red Wing Shoe to cut second shift

RED WING, Minn. - Red Wing Shoe Co. announced Thursday it will eliminate its second shift at the Red Wing plant here in February.

Additionally, the company is closing its Kentucky manufacturing plant and will move some work from that factory to Red Wing.

About 200 workers will be laid off as the company restructures its domestic manufacturing operations to adjust to the struggling economy, company officials said.

"During the recession we have been operating our plants at less than ideal efficiency," President Dave Murphy said.

Murphy said high unemployment among blue-collar workers has hurt demand for work boots. Over the past year the company asked its workers to scale back their hours by participating in a shared-work program and taking voluntary days off.

Company officials hoped that would keep the shoe-maker afloat until the economy turned around, Murphy said, but given the nation's high unemployment figures they don't believe a recovery is coming soon.

Given that outlook, the com pany needed to restructure its domestic manufacturing, said Peter Engel, a company spokesman.

The company will offer early retirement packages to older workers in the hope of avoiding local layoffs, Engel said, and then will merge second-shift workers into the first shift. Depending on how many workers accept early retirement, up to 60 people could lose their jobs here.

Workers were told Wednesday and Thursday.

Jon Swedien is a reporter at The Republican Eagle in Red Wing, Minn. The Republican Eagle and the Bemidji Pioneer are owned by Forum Communications Co.