Monday, April 09, 2007

No More Camillus Knives

At the end of February 2007, Camillus Cutlery (Camillus, NY) closed its doors for the last time. The knife manufacturer, in business since 1876, was known for its pocket knives, but also made Boy Scout utility knives, Western knives, and military/tactical fighting knives. The company remained in its original location, on the banks of Nine Mile Creek, for all the years of its existence. Many of the workers at the facility were long-time employees, and some were third or fourth generation employees.

Although readers of the local paper in Camillus were aware of the company’s troubles, Internet surfers looking for the company’s website (www.camillusknives.com) are greeted only with the news that the site has been closed. The last listing of the site in the web archives is May 23, 2006, just days after the company’s workers walked out on strike to protest proposed drastic decreases in wages and health benefits. Camillus workers, members of the United Steelworkers, remained on strike from May through November 2006, before finally reaching agreement with the company on a new contract. Shortly thereafter, Camillus Cutlery announced sizeable layoffs, and within a few months the company had closed.

Is there a lesson in the closing of Camillus Cutlery, and if so, what is that lesson? Is it that American-made products cannot compete on price with products made elsewhere? Can financially troubled companies talk openly and honestly with workers about needed concessions? When unions are negotiating contracts with financially troubled companies, how can they support the company without sacrificing the quality of life of their members?

According to the USW website, there had not been a strike at the facility since 1952. I do not know whether the labor-management conflicts arose from approaches or decisions taken by the new management, or whether the economic realities facing the company made new salary and benefit conditions inevitable.

In any case, I am sad at the loss of a venerable old company that made quality products, sad that the sacrifice of the striking workers seemed only to hasten the demise of their employer. There must be a better way.

[For a while, at least, read more about the history of Camillus Cutlery]

Stephanie, Webmaster
StillMadeinUSA.com

41 comments:

R. Dannemann said...

Camillus made high quality knives for a big volume manufacturer. They may have been in trouble without the labor strike anyway with the increasing trend of knife production outsourced to China and Japan by other knife companies.

Julian Carnes said...

For years I carried a Camillus model 72. whittler's knife (aka the Boy Scout Whittler's knife). I dropped it from a helicopter over War Zone C in Vietnam in Feb 66. I wrote a letter to the company from VN telling them how much I missed my old companion. They sent me a replacement knife free of charge. Many years later, i was building gas stations in central NY State and one was in Camillus. I visited the factory (this was in 1996) and they were gracious and showed me their operation. I will miss their product and the knowledge that they made the best pocket knife in the USA.
Julian Carnes, LTC, USA-ret

Dave said...

It is sad that a company like this has to fold. There is a balance between labor and ownership, and from here I could not judge either side, of course the bottom line is the owners and the workers lost those jobs.

I would love to see retailers promote American made goods, that may help. I would gladly pay more to support hard working Americans.

Why don't retailers promote more domestic goods? I know where I live in the Seattle area very few retailers would as the local culture is in love with the Global community. Even though so many of us make a living from Boeing

Anonymous said...

See yet another case why the union is a waste and harms the country more then it helps. thanks to the steel union people are out of work and kids go hungry. thanks union!

Anonymous said...

Well, I just wonder how all those union workers/strikers are doing with the benefits they received after the strike? Seems to me that they are out of a job... did the strike get them much after all??

Anonymous said...

This is one example of an organization "protecting" it's members by not realizing the source of the financial shortfall is the organiztion itself.Camillus was one of those companies that deserved to survive much more than it's union.The auto industry should make note that a union will not save a bad product any better than it can save a good product.It can only create animosity and strife while the two exist.The steelworkers should get a clue and look at the long-term before the wipe out the entire U.S. steel industry. I doubt they would have much influence in China.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately for working people the bosses at labor unions are in bed with corporate management and globalists, as they are members of the same group, the Council on Foreign relations. The somewhat insane wage demands made of auto companies were designed to put them on an unstable footing that has led to drastic job cuts in later years. Unfortuantely, they were very good at hiding this reality from the average worker.

The best thing that we can do buy as many goods online from USA companies as possible. If you "need " a chinese made product from a discount store, consider buying it, using it once and then returning it. State your reason for returning as "it is made in china."

Anonymous said...

Don't be too hard on the unions, they have played a very important role in protecting Americans from unfair business practices throughout U.S. history.
It is possible, and very likely, that the company was financially ruined before the strike even occurred (otherwise, why would the company have needed to make the wage and benefit cuts?). However, many companies just cannot be out of production for months like that and survive...the loss of revenue over such a time span is deadly. Plus, by missing shipment commitment dates to customers, they lost customers who had to contract with other suppliers for product. Loss of revenue for months, plus loss of regular customers, plus high cost of labor, plus increased strength of competitors due to picking up the new contracts, logically lead to Camillus's death. Yes, this is a sad thing. I can't help but think that the company management bungled the whole thing though, and that there is where the blame lies for the companies demise.

Anonymous said...

I am in agreement with the comment made regarding labor unions being in cahoots with globalists. This factory joined the growing list of US companies no longer able to compete with cheap foreign labor. The CFR and the Trilateral Commission are largely responsible for their demise. Members of these groups hold positions of power and prestige in international politics (our own president Bush is one of their most fervent supporters), academia, and corporate management. The primary purpose for these individuals is not in the public interest, but rather their own financial gain. I would challenge those unfamiliar with the practices of these groups (Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission) to do a google search and become informed.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Josh Dermer said...

Stephanie:

Do you know if the U.S. military is still contracting with American manufacturers, or have they started contracting with foreign firms?

Also, it must be noted that China has been dumping steel on our market which is undervalued by as much as 80 percent. The solution to the problem is to impose high tariffs and quotas on Chinese steel imports.

Anonymous said...

Come sept 17th 2007 the whole factory plus all plans drawings ect ect is being auctioned off to the highest bidder. The company that holds the mortage tried and tried to sell it as a package deal to another knife company but for what ever reason it fell through at last minute. So it is going piece meal. I will be there to buy knives

Anonymous said...

I won't buy anything made in China! They are disrespecting our time honored names like Schrade as well as dumping pure junk on our country for sale. All those 99 cent & dollar stores are nothing but Chineses junk! Walmart is guilty of this too.

Anonymous said...

The Unions sell out to the highest bidders. They exist to protect themselves, not you! I have belonged to three of them in the past until I figured this out. Where else can a flunky make the same wage as a highly skilled craftsman? YUP, through a union. BAH! Their doctrine forces manufacturer's and builders to pay these flunky's way more than they are worth, so how do you expect these American companies to compete?

Anonymous said...

As a frequent buyer of their knives and as a family member of someone who worked there I know 1st hand. it is very sad to see them go. These workers are skilled artisians. Most of them had no college degree but were very good at their jobs. The Steel workers union took advantage of their lack of business knowledge and convinced them to strike and stay out.

The Steel workers union web site that said there had not been a strike is a load of BS. Jim Va$$n$i their union rep screwed them over.

I'm sure the owners knew long ago they would close but the union had the most part in it and I am pro union. Put the blame where it belongs though. They sleep at night but our families don't.

Anonymous said...

I was there on the inside with management and the union was very bad for the corporate health. The company made MORE per employee when the Union was on the sidewalk. So much more output when people work as a TEAM.. The workers were Skilled but had a union mindset... little work high demands. The company requests were not HUGE, the union was very stupid to strike. The company of coarse was fighting China imports.
There were many issues the Union would not listen to. The family who owned the company had very little desire to save the company and the union wanted it to close so the employees could get benefits from the plan that retrains workers who loose jobs due to imports... the poor people in the street had no chance and should have just worked their tails off IN THE FACTORY.. not walking the sidewalks demanding something that could never happen.

Anonymous said...

We need to *buy american* even when it costs more and is not better than offshore products.

It's not a new dilemma.

Auto/Clothing/Electronics all went and going the same route.

We cost more and must be willing to pay for it.

Personally I try very, very hard to buy American and almost never buy things made in China.

My cars have always been American (2xChevy, 1xFord).

The products are not always better and they do cost more.

But I pay for it.

Put your money where your mouth is and we'll see more things made in America!

W. E. Doritty said...

I've carried a Camillus pocket knife since I was a cub scout.
Their stainless steel military version of the scout knife is unsurpassed in durability & quality.
Over the years, I have given many of these as gifts, as it is a "MacGyver tool" no one should be without...damn.

Tom Hawkins said...

Tom Hawkins, Raleigh, N.C. I have carried Camillus pocket knives for more than twenty years, own two and carry one with the Hornet .22 shell imbedded in the handle. Do I now have to carry something else because these have become collector's items? Oh horrible, horrible.

Anonymous said...

Good ol' unions kill another American icon. Nobody deserves $25/hour for running a drill press. Nobody.

J_G said...

Sounds like management threw in the towel to me. There is plenty of work for American workers and they should get paid whatever they can negotiate. It make no difference though when families or long time owners sell out their interests in long held companies. The usual result is the buyers have already chosen to shut the plant down and no amount of give backs are going to save the plant.They will chop the plant apart and sell off it's assets.

Unions still have a vital role in American quality and craftsmanship in manufacturing. It's up to the Union members to take control of their Unions and not let outsiders dictate the terms or conditions. Outside the local Union negotiators can be used but the local has to maintain control and have the last say before agreeing to contracts. If it weren't for Unions you'd all be serving Mai Tai's to Chinese Communist party tourists. They are still the backbone of American manufacturing like or not.

I bought two Camillus Navy Marlin Spike knives just before they closed the plant. I have one and my friend of 35 years has one. We both served together in the Navy and have been friends since then.

I don't have post anonymousely because I believe in what I say.

Camillus Knives said...

It's definitely a shame it had to come to this. They'll become collector's items now though.

Anonymous said...

As a long time Boy Scout leader, I have carried camillus scout knives for years and they were everything they were touted to be. I had absolutely no complaints and many of my co-workers have admired the versatility and quality workmanship. That being said, earlier this year a co-worker asked if I would get him one of the scout knives. I picked one up at the local scout shop and was surprised that the price had been cut in half. The box seemed lighter as well. Later I discovered that, sice Camillus had closed, they were now being imported from China. Chrom plated blades, thin metal, crappy quality all around. (NEVER buy a knife with a chrome blade, it's sucker bait) I'm sorry the unions and management couldn't come to some reasonable agreement. Greed on one or both of their parts ended everyone's jobs and helped no one. That's sad. What's worse is that I'll bet no one learns a thing from this.

Anonymous said...

I am in awe of the number of misinformed people making foolish comments here. For all your freedoms...thank a Vet, for your next paycheck...thank a union worker !!!!!!!

Andy Hohol said...

A world class manufacturing: is the United States workers have to live like the rest of the world, cold and hungry, While Wall Street takes Billion dollar packages from uncle sam and forgets where the money went. Someone needs a pay cut or a layoff and it is not the guy in the street, but Wall Street big boys and their buddies on Capital Hill!

Christopher said...

I received my first pocketknife at the age of eight; it was a Camillus Cub Scout knife. Two years later my neighbor, a Vietnam vet, gave me an issue survival knife, also a Camillus. Thus began my lifelong fascination with knives. I' ve already retired my Schrades; do I now have to retire yet another brand because it' s no longer made? Who' s next?

Mike said...

Camillus made blades on contract for Gerber, Cold Steel, Buck, Schrade and several other major brands. Gerber and Schrade made the mistake of selling out to WalMarx and such, and had to contract with China to keep their costs low enough to appease their de facto owners. The loss of 50ish % of their contracts clobbered Camillus.

Americans insist they want stuff dirt cheap, and they want it American made, and they want union wages. All the above is impossible, and in my experience selling knives the last 30 years, the union whores are the cheapest bastards out there. They cut their own throats by expecting everyone else to give them top dollar for shoddy work, but want first class goods for a pittance. They deserve to starve, and I don't care how great they were for America in 1901--this is 2009. Nor does it take a global conspiracy. Plain greed and stupidity suffice just fine to destroy good companies.

Anonymous said...

I have been carrying one since I could remember. They made great knifes I only found out they were closed when I broke the tip on my current knife. I wish I knew I would of taken better care of my knife which I cannot replace. It is a terrible thing that we buy so much junk from over seas.

Ed Figueroa said...

Camillus knives were always a good purchase, here in Mexico, is not rare to pay 40% more of the cost of a good American knife that least many years. The problem was not only the cost, they did not nothing to make an international presence consistently, Buck, Leatherman as example, sell knives in a many hardware stores in Mexico, they make marketing efforts (shows, displays, a goos stock), to positioning they products and they took advantages of trade agreements as Nafta to play versus brands as Victorinox, Boker or Lagiole in the pocket knife arena.
American products never were cheap, they are in the market due their high technical design and undoubted quality.

Len McDougall, Author said...

Camillus Cutlery was in trouble before the United Steel Workers squeezed the company hard enough to kill it. The knife market is incredibly competitive, and if you're not growing you're dying. Camillus simply didn't keep up; the venerable old knives so many have praised here are as good as they ever were, but they're nowhere near the quality of today's more sophisticated blades. Maybe Camillus will be more competitive with new captainsat the helm.

Len McDougall
http://www.tactical-life.com/online/author/lenmcdougall/

Anonymous said...

It's a double edge sword i'm sad to say. Most people in this country including myself, Wants as much From an employer as they can get, This is not a problem that just exists within union shops Vs Non-union (Scab) workers.We all want to better our selves as we progress in our working years. Anyone who says different is not being honest with there self or any one else.
The true problem is. Usually people in general want to make high wages, these same people don't want to pay union prices when they are playing the roll as a consummer. ie can you picture your self paying two dollars for a can of corn at your local food store. Because every one who had anything to do with the growing, harvesting, procession, even the cashier who checked you out. Recieved wages they felt each one of them had coming to them.Two dollars a can would be a low guess. As a knilf collector I too am sad to see this happen to such a giant in the knife industry. We have all seen this happen many times in almost every industry. It seems their will always be a country that will be more then willing to import their goods cheap and step back to watch us Americans rush out to buy. and end up falling on this double edged sword.

Bill Wayne said...

Sad news. :( I was doing some net surfing on jack bauer 24 gear when I stumbled on this post. Camillus has been known to produce quality knives and it is such a big loss.

C. B. Lawson said...

I own a Camillus I was issued in the U.S.M.C. with those initials on the handle but the back spine is broken where the screwdriver and the can opener reside does anyone know where I could have it repaired? thanks Ben I can be reached at benacdc@aol.com

Unknown said...

It is sad that Camilius will shut down. They used to make great knives too. Has anyone tried gerber knives?

kershaw leek said...

Gerber, Camillus, and Kershaw knives have penetrated the market well as they've provided quality that isn't at par with their competitors in the market.

Daniel Bryan said...

It is a shame that Camillus knives are no longer manufactured and sold. I will just have to make do with these gerber knives.

kershaw knives said...

It is sad that a company like this has to fold. There is a balance between labor and ownership, and from here I could not judge either side, of course the bottom line is the owners and the workers lost those jobs.

cold steel knives said...

True Kershaw. It's a tragedy, really, knowing how Camillus knives thrived for a long period of time.

buck knife said...

It is sad that there will no longer be Camillus knives. I had liked their line of knives from kitchen to pocket knives for the woodsman.

cold steel said...

I'm not that familiar with Camillus knives but thanks for the heads up. This saves me from a potential bad investment.

Qicksilver L said...

Okay, the union got good money for everyone. Big downfall, to my recollection, was when the young guys walked in with business suits carrying brief cases. They were going to save the company money. They laid off a slew of workers just ready to retire. This was sometime around 77. The American steel was pulled and they started using Asian steel. Biggest mistake. Blades was rusting before they were washed. Government contracts were lost. Then the long time Mgr. retired and the biggest goof ball in the world was running things and not so well I might add. The company sold out to Bair and then the elderly gentleman died and his kids got it. That was the ride straight down hill all the way. It was not the union, no one was getting as rich as the people at the top. That is were you need to look. Just like now in 2013. I hear tell that some may have received their Camillus Cutlery retirement back finally after all these years. Congratulations folks. I know this will help. Have a happier New Year . I know you worked hard in some of the hottest rooms that could exist in the summer.