The 85 employees who voted to keep open the General Electric Ohio Lamp Plant in Warren deserve the community's support for standing up to their 91 co-workers who voted to shut down the facility.
The U.S. government established rules to eliminate incandescent light bulbs, a staple at the Ohio Lamp Plant, in favor of more efficient ones. As a result, most or all light bulb production is being shipped overseas. The GE plant in Warren is scheduled to shut down at the beginning of 2014.
To save the plant, GE and the workers' union - International Union of Electrical Workers-Communications Workers of America - reached a deal to keep most of the jobs at least through mid 2015. The workers rejected the offer by six votes.
The attitudes of those workers who would rather see all jobs lost rather than most jobs saved at a 15 percent wage cut demonstrates the plight of unions nationwide. According to polls, only one in 10 nonunion worker wants to join a union. Only 11.3 percent of the U.S. work force belongs to a union, less than when Congress passed and FDR signed the National Labor Relations Act in 1935, and less than 7 percent of private sector workers belong to a union.
Florida is considering legislation that would allow employers to give performance raises to union workers. Many unions oppose. Likewise, Giant Eagle in Edinboro, Pa., awarded raises to several employees, a move swiftly opposed by their union because the raises were not part of the contract. ''This attitude alienates many potential union members,'' labor economics analyst James Sherk wrote in an op-ed published in the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.
The IUE-CWA leaders should be commended for their willingness to compromise to protect their Ohio Lamp Plant families. They should now offer to dissolve Local 722 so that the 85 GE workers who want to can keep their jobs and the remaining positions can be opened for applicants. We predict the company would get flooded with hundreds, maybe thousands of job seekers.
This gives the 91 who rejected the contract what they want (retirement), the 85 who approved the contract what they want (gainful employment) and the community at large what it wants (a healthier local economy with job opportunities).