The General Electric Ohio Lamp Plant in Warren could be closing as soon as soon as January, putting 179 workers on the unemployment line.
Members of the IUE-CWA Local 722 and company officials reached a tentative agreement last week. Chris Augustine, GE’s global communications manager, said Thursday the union came up with a “cost effective” proposal the company accepted, which involved cutbacks and layoffs
GE said in January it intended to close the North Park Avenue plant, which also employs a few salaried employees.
Union members voted Monday evening not to ratify the agreement proposed by GE officials last week that would have kept the plant open. Workers leaving the plant earlier in the day said the tension was building inside.
“People are starting to bicker amongst themselves and some people believe it’s better if the place closes and they get this and get that and get out,” said Richard Cook of Canfield, who has worked at the plant for 24 years.
Augustine said under the proposed agreement, the company would transfer out low-selling incandescent bulbs to other plants. They would then add several energy-efficient halogen bulb lines to the Warren plant and label them “made or manufactured in the USA.” The deal would require additional equipment at the plant.
But no guarantees came with that proposal.
“We were hoping to get some type of product, and we are, but it’s a product that’s a halogen that may not fly either, we don’t know,” said Chuck Brazin of Warren, a 36-year employee.
Earlier in the day, Brazin said he had mixed emotions about the vote.
“I could retire if they close the plant. Or, I could keep working and younger people will lose their jobs,” Brazin said. “So, I have mixed feelings.”
“I’m proud to say I voted yes, I will tell the world I voted yes. There was never a question in my mind. I would never vote for a plant to close that has supported so many people for so many years. I would never,” said Cheryl DeFoor, a 15-year employee. “We’re like a family, we’ve all worked together for so long.”
Now, 179 people will have to wait and see if GE will work something else out with them. Either way, it was news that many people were already expecting.
“You got the older people that are thinking this way, you’ve got younger people thinking this way. Everybody’s pretty much looking out for their own good, what’s good for them,” Cook said.
The age gap among workers could be what contributed to what union representatives said was a “razor-thin” margin in votes whether to stay open or close.
“There’s a big divide and it shouldn’t have come to that. I think GE put us in a bad position,” Brazin said.
A lot is still unknown as the union may go back to the bargaining table with GE as soon as Tuesday morning.
Employees from the plant will rally in front of it at 3 p.m. Tuesday as “a sign to the company and the community they have not given up,” according to an email sent by a worker.