Lamp Plant's future unclear
By Jamison Cocklin
Little is known about the future of the General Electric Co.’s Ohio Lamp Plant on North Park Avenue after the union representing 179 workers there voted against a proposal to keep the plant open late Monday.
On Tuesday, IUE-CWA Local 722 President Scott Moore said he had no idea what was next for the workers or the factory, which makes incandescent light bulbs for commercial use, among other things.
Union officials met with the plant’s management Monday, but little came of the meeting, according to both sides.
“We are disappointed with [Monday’s] vote. This package was mainly structured by the union leadership to save jobs, and we thought we had negotiated a fair package, which the union leadership supported,” said Ron Wilson, general manager for GE lighting’s supply chain.
“This package would have allowed Ohio Lamp Plant to have a promising future by saving some of the existing production, while adding new equipment and work that would keep jobs in the Warren area,” Wilson added.
Citing declining sales volume, the company in January issued an intent-to-close notice for the plant, which employs about 200 people. Under the original plan, the plant was scheduled to close sometime during the first quarter of 2014.
Local 722 was able to negotiate an agreement to keep the plant open by putting a plan forward to manufacture energy-efficient halogen light bulbs, a popular draw for the plant’s commercial customers, which it does not currently produce.
Last Friday, Moore expressed optimism that the union would vote in favor of the proposal, which a GE spokesman said did include some wage concessions.
Of the 179 workers who voted on the proposal, about 95 are eligible for retirement and severance benefits if the plant closes, Moore said — a footnote that GE spokesman Christopher Augustine said could be one reason why membership turned down the agreement.
The union needed a majority vote to ratify the agreement, and with so many workers eligible for nearly a year’s pay, plus retirement benefits, a generational divide could have worked its way into the voting process.
Moore acknowledged the fact but said he couldn’t say for sure why the union voted down the proposal. Both parties said talks will continue, and no final decision has been made on whether to close the plant as scheduled.