Fallout over SB 5 continues for area chamber

By Kristen Russo



Another business has withdrawn its membership from the Youngstown/ Warren Regional Chamber as a result of the chamber’s support for Senate Bill 5.

In a letter to the chamber Friday, Tom Byers, general manager of A.B. Crane & Steel Service Inc., said the chamber “is now perceived to limit its exposure to only those that support the Republican Party.”

Gov. John Kasich signed SB 5, which curtails some collective-bargaining rights for public employees and had strong Republican support, into law Thursday.

Tony Paglia, vice president of government affairs for the chamber, said new members have joined the organization as a result of the SB 5 endorsement. Paglia would not say, however, who those members were or how many have joined.

“A.B. Crane & Steel Service is a very small company barely surviving. We have to be very careful to spend our money on organizations that help us,” Byers said in his letter to the chamber.

The Youngstown-based steel supplier has four employees.

“I just wish they would’ve stayed neutral on [SB 5]. I don’t see how it helps to support it so strongly,” Byers said in an interview Friday.

On Wednesday, Fireline Inc., a Youngstown-based refractory manufacturer, had a press conference announcing it was terminating its membership with the chamber.

On Thursday, Mike Broderick, president and chief executive officer of Turning Technologies, announced his resignation from the chamber’s board of directors and his company’s withdrawal from chamber membership.

Broderick and Roger Jones, chairman of Fireline’s board of directors, cited the chamber’s endorsement of SB 5 as reasons for leaving.

“We work so closely with our guys, and our guys are in the Steelworkers union. It seemed like an insult to me,” Jones said of the endorsement during Wednesday’s press conference at Fireline’s production facility, 300 Andrews Ave.

Broderick also said the e-mail voting process that the chamber implemented in the endorsement “was flawed at best.”

“Board members were asked to participate in a straight up or down vote with no motion, no second, and most importantly, no discussion or consensus building allowed,” Broderick said in a letter to chamber leadership. “I was one of the 14 members [the majority] that either did not vote or abstained because I do not believe that a vote should even have been conducted by the Chamber Board. I believe the results of that vote indicate that my thinking was not alone. These publicly reported results show only eight members voting to support the Bill and one against, while 14 of us either abstained or did not vote at all.”

Bruce Zoldan, chief executive officer of B.J. Alan Co., the wholesale fireworks distributor located in Youngstown, terminated his membership with the chamber in October 2010 after Tom Humphries, the chamber’s president and CEO, co-hosted a fundraiser for Kasich, who was then the Republican candidate for governor.

“The chamber is a business organization. It’s not a political organization, and I think its leadership has, in recent times, been making decisions without proper direction from the board,” Zoldan said Friday.

“I think the Regional Chamber should stick to its original purpose, and that is business,” Zoldan said.

The law firm of David Betras also terminated its chamber membership in October 2010. Betras is Mahoning County Democratic Party chairman.

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