The scene at the Trumbull County administration building Monday was a throwback to the days when unions and companies, like two triceratops battling for supremacy, butted heads until one keeled over and the other was left dazed.
In this case the company, General Motors, wasn't even present and the union official, Warren Davis, came down from Cleveland to lunge at the Trumbull County commissioners. Urging Davis on was the state senator from Mahoning County, Robert Hagan.
The source of agitation for Davis, who is director of the United Auto Workers' regional office, and Hagan, D-33rd, was action taken by the commissioners last week to bring a new company to Trumbull County, Android Industries. Commissioners approved a tax abatement for Android's proposed plant in Vienna Township.
Complaint: Davis and Hagan cried foul, saying that the plant, which would employ 185 people, would be doing work now performed by UAW members at the Lordstown Assembly Plant. About 200 men and women are paid $22 to $25 an hour to attach alternators, starters, hoses and other parts to engine blocks for cars built at Lordstown. The Android workers would be paid about $14 an hour to dress the engines and would get fewer benefits.
It seems to us that those are exactly the kind of economies that are going to be necessary if General Motors is going to decide on Lordstown as the site for a new product after the Cavaliers and Sunfires produced there are phased out in 2004.
Davis dismisses the idea that GM will not choose to spend more than a half billion dollars to convert the Lordstown plant for a new line of cars. It's much easier for Davis to scoff from Cleveland than it is for those of us who live in the Mahoning Valley and know what it means to our economy
Bad idea: Hagan says the state should rescind a $137,000 training grant, a $1.5 million loan and a tax credit approved by state officials for Android. Gov. Bob Taft isn't going to do that, because to do so would be foolhardy.
Trumbull County, the Mahoning Valley and the state of Ohio have only one message to send to General Motors: We're ready to work with you to bring another generation of cars to the Lordstown plant.
The car plant is down to about 4,500 employees. Will there be that many employees at a new plant? Probably not. But there will be thousands. And thousands more will provide goods and services.
A Cleveland union official may be willing to stomp his feet and bellow about how that isn't good enough. Maybe in another era, it wouldn't have been. But today, companies can choose from the four corners of the earth when deciding where to build a plant. Most people in the Mahoning Valley live in a real world in which they know it's better to make your best deal possible than to butt heads.