Chamber loses more members over Senate bill

2 law firms, cafe opt out; Boardman business renews

By Kristen Russo


Three more companies have left the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber as a result of the chamber board’s endorsement of Senate Bill 5, but one has renewed its membership.

Last week, Gov. John Kasich signed the bill, which will curtail some collective-bargaining rights of public employees.

Early this week, two Youngstown law firms — Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill Co. L.P.A., and Green Haines Sgambati Co. L.P.A. — sent letters to the chamber terminating their memberships.

The Mocha House, a cafe with locations in Warren and Boardman, also has canceled its membership.

On Monday, however, Timothy Ryan, president of Ryan Alternative Staffing Inc., Boardman, sent a letter to the chamber and The Vindicator stating his support for the business-advocacy organization.

Ryan has renewed his company’s chamber membership.

“Those that have decided to withdraw from the Chamber certainly have that right. They cannot however hide from the fact that the political and organized labor cultures that have dominated this area for decades have significantly contributed to the continuing decline of the Mahoning Valley,” Ryan wrote.

“In fact, it is apparent to me that this entire Chamber/S.B. 5 controversy is a further attempt to distract the population from their [political and organized labor] own failed records of the past 35 years. Honestly, are we better off as a community than we were in 1977 or 1990 or even 2005? I don’t think anyone can honestly answer yes to that question,” Ryan said in the letter.

“The Chamber deserves to be supported by everyone that does business in the region. I hope that our token show of support will encourage others to step up to the plate and do the same,” Ryan wrote.

Bill Axiotis, co-owner of The Mocha House, said his business has taken a neutral stand on politics since it opened in 1992.

“By the chamber endorsing [SB 5], it put us in an awkward position. We felt it was better for us to be on the sidelines, and that’s what we decided to do,” Axiotis said.

In the letter Green Haines Sgambati sent to the chamber, managing partner Dennis Haines said the 1983 Public Employees Collective Bargaining Act removed public employees from second-class citizenship.

“Senate Bill 5 is a cynical insult to [public employees] and will relegate them to a worse status than they held before the enactment of the 1983 law,” Haines said.

“As longtime advocates of injured workers in the Mahoning Valley, we strongly oppose your support of SB 5. We represent many public employees and support their right to collective bargaining,” Joseph A. Moro, a partner with Heller, Maas, Moro and Magill, said in his company’s letter to the chamber.

Other companies that have terminated their memberships with the chamber because of the board’s endorsement of SB 5 are: A.B. Crane & Steel Service Inc., Fireline Inc. and Turning Technologies.

All three companies are based in Youngstown.

Last week, Mike Broderick, president and chief executive officer of Turning Technologies, also resigned from the chamber’s board of directors.

Bruce Zoldan, CEO of B.J. Alan Co., removed his company from chamber membership 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 law firm of attorney David Betras left the chamber at that time as well. Betras is Mahoning County Democratic Party chairman.

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