It is telling that Vallourec Star, one of the leading manufacturers in the Mahoning Valley, did not use its proposed $81.5 million steel-pipe threading factory as a hammer to persuade its workers not to unionize. What it tells us is that the executives of Vallourec Star, a division of Paris, France-based Vallourec, are to be believed when they talk about their commitment not only to their workers but to the community at large.
It would have been understandable had the company warned that the acceptance of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America union would be a game-changer.
As Chris Lockwood Reynolds, an assistant economics professor at Kent State University, told The Vindicator after the overwhelming vote to reject the union was announced, the proposed expansion may have weighed on the minds of both employees and company officials. Unionization would have meant higher costs for the company, which could have jeopardized the expansion, Reynolds said.
There’s no denying that the public revelation of Vallourec Star’s plans to build the steel-pipe threading plant in Youngstown served as the backdrop to the chatter that preceded the vote on the union. But, it was city government officials and not company executives who gave The Vindicator the information.
It should be noted that the company did not deny the story.
The 367-148-vote rejection of the bid by the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America union to represent the workers is a victory for the company. It suggests that what executives had said about the work environment in the plants that make up the steel-pipe producing complex is true.
“We at Vallourec Star are proud of our ongoing investment in our employees and the local community and will continue to provide a safe and respectful workplace where pay and benefits programs remain some of the best in the [V]alley and surrounding areas,” the company said in a statement after the vote.
GOOD DEAL FOR WORKERS
A majority of the employees obviously agree that they’ve got a pretty good deal going for them, which is why they rejected the union. But, concerns were raised by union representatives during the campaign that management undoubtedly will seek at least to discuss with the disgruntled workers in order to nip any problems in the bud.
The company cannot afford to be further distracted by workplace complaints when it is on the verge of going forward with the $81.5 million investment in the new plant.
Several weeks ago, when Youngstown officials talked about the project, there was no indication that Vallourec Star was looking for financial assistance from state government. Nonetheless, the city, which is granting the company a 10-year, 75 percent tax abatement, is expecting $300,000 from the state to be used for site improvement.
The pipe-threading facility would be operated by VAM USA LLC, a subsidiary of Vallourec Star, and would be located in the former Genmak Steel building, which the VAM bought for $2.5 million, and on an additional 67,000 square feet of property nearby in the city-owned Ohio Works Business Park.
About 80 workers would be employed at the new plant with an annual payroll of up to $3.7 million.
Vallourec Star’s presence in the Mahoning Valley has generated national and international interest not only because of the products being made, but because the French parent company has invested more than $1 billion in a new state-of-the-art steel pipe-making facility. The pipe is used in the burgeoning industry of oil and gas exploration.
Without a doubt, things are looking up for one of the Mahoning Valley’s leading manufacturers. The decision by the workers not to join a union will send a strong message about this region’s labor climate.