WARREN CSC union welcomes news of purchase
One labor leader thinks a union successorship clause scared away one prospective buyer .
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
WARREN -- Union or no union, a labor leader representing 1,120 Steelworkers left jobless when CSC Ltd. went dark in April says local union leaders will do whatever they can to bring jobs back to the idle mill.
John Kubilis, president of Local 2243 of the United Steelworkers of America, said a Ukrainian investment group's decision to buy the land and buildings where CSC Ltd. once operated is positive news for the unemployed steelworkers and the community in general.
"It means they have some interest in doing something with the property, and we will do whatever we can do locally to provide them with a work force," Kubilis said. "We want the jobs."
He said Local 2243 leaders would try first to convince the new owners that a union would be in their best interests. If that failed, they would not fight opening of a nonunion shop."If they opened nonunion, we could always organize eventually," Kubilis said. "You have to realize that a union is people, and I would not turn my back on the people."
Purchase agreement: Don Caiazza, CSC vice president of commercial sales and one of only four managers still working at the plant, announced Wednesday that he signed a purchase agreement with the Ukrainian investors earlier this week. They formed a new, Delaware-based holding company, Warren Steel Holdings LLC, to buy the site.
The investors, the same group that bought the CSC melt shop and continuous caster for $6 million last month, has agreed to pay $1.2 million for the 400-acre site, Caiazza said. The melt shop and continuous caster are two of the largest and newest items in the facility.
Caiazza said he could not name the owners, give details on their other business ventures, or say what their plans are for the mill property. More information will become available later this week, he said.
CSC managers put together a 30-page business plan for the investors, Caiazza said, to demonstrate that the mill could be operated profitably and, eventually, at the same levels of volume and sales it had before it halted operations.
Union clause: Local 2243 has a union successorship clause written into its bargaining agreement, a common labor safeguard requiring the new owner to recognize the union and negotiate any changes in its collective bargaining agreement.
Kubilis said that successorship clause scared a buyer away last month. He thinks the Ellwood Group Inc., a metal fabricating business based in Ellwood City, Pa., was considering buying the mill but balked when David Fusco, a USWA attorney, refused Kubilis' proposal that the union consider waiving successorship.
Fusco said the successorship is an important, job-saving tool for the USWA, and Ellwood Group had made no promise to buy the mill or to employ any USWA members. "We got no indication that the Ellwood Group was interested," he said.
Fusco said union officials in Pittsburgh were still determining Wednesday whether the successorship clause will apply for the new Ukrainian owners of the CSC site.
Willing to help: Warren Mayor Hank Angelo said he has offered to work with Caiazza and the new CSC landowners. "What can the city do? We're really not sure at this point," he said. "I look at this as a great potential, and we want to do whatever we can."
Angelo said city officials are looking at how they might help with some environmental problems on the site, and the city could offer to provide sanitary sewer treatment services to the mill.
CSC filed for protection from its creditors under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code in January, and halted operations in April when the facility ran out of operating cash. A long search for a buyer to operate the mill and preserve the 1,375 jobs it provided ended in October when the mill was sold at a piecemeal auction in Cleveland.