A union spokesman called the company's behavior 'outrageous.'
By STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Trumbull County commissioners expressed hope that officials of Taylor Steel could work out their differences with union members before a final vote on a tax abatement for the Lordstown plant next week.
The company seeks a 10-year, 75 percent reduction in taxes on $12.7 million in new investment in the Lordstown facility. The company will close in Niles and move at least some of the workers to the expanded Lordstown facility, officials said.
In return for the tax break, the company promises to hire 30 workers at the plant in Lordstown, which is not unionized. There are 15 union steel workers at the Niles plant and 25 office employees.
"The company has chosen to vacate the collective bargaining agreement and move into a nonunion facility," said Gary Steinbeck, subdistrict director of the United Steelworkers of America at a tax abatement hearing Wednesday. "I think it is outrageous and reckless on the part of this company."
Steinbeck said the possibility of closing the Niles plant was not mentioned during contract negotiations last June, and that the company never contacted the union directly to explain what was going on.
"They are concerned that they aren't going to have a job when you move from Niles to Lordstown," said Michael O'Brien, a county commissioner.
Commissioners asked company managers to meet with union employees before next Wednesday, when a vote on the abatement is planned. Company officials have said that all Niles workers "will be considered" for employment in Lordstown.
"I think they are concerned when you pick and choose, who the ax is going to fall on," said Joseph Angelo Jr., a county commissioner.
Dennis Giddings, the company general manager, said that an effort was made to contact Steinbeck, but that a telephone call was not returned. The hearing Wednesday was a continuation of a hearing that had begun last week.
Niles officials, angered by the company's decision to close the plant in their town, have urged commissioners to deny the tax abatement. They say an earlier tax abatement on the Niles plant, set to expire this year, spared the company from paying any property taxes while they were there.
The new tax abatement is supported by Lordstown, where it was unanimously approved by village council.
"I would hope that the commissioners consider the welfare of the county in general, the welfare of the company, as well as the employees," said Ron Barnhart, Lordstown planning administrator, speaking in favor of the abatement.