Stark County, Ohio is a lot like Detroit. It is old steel, old Union, and in a state of decay. The local hospital is now the largest employer in an area that onced played host to some of the world's largest companies like Hoover Vacuum Sweepers.
One of the last remaining old line companies is Timken. When the world's wheels move, there's a good chance they do so on Timken Roller Bearings. They are also in the specialty steel business and there is a growing need for US-made steel in critical parts industries like oil drilling, hydraulic fracturing and heavy equipment, places where companies can't take the chance on cheap Chinese alternatives.
Timken decided to invest $225M to upgrade the local plant. The State of Ohio promised $19M in tax breaks to help out and the company promised 18 years of steady employment levels.
The only problem is that they wanted to assure themselves that they would also have long-term labor peace and their contract with the United Steel Workers expires at the end of 2013 with the upgrades going on line in 2014. So they asked the USW to bargain early for a contract that would last through 2017.
Seeing the possibility to save jobs and enhance job security, the Union and the company reached an agreement right before Christmas. Last night the rank and file rejected it, 917-608. If the country is lucky this mill and its jobs will land in a Southern right-to-work state.
The union leadership was disappointed and now faces an uncertain future. Says Local 1123 President Joe Hoagland, “It’s up to the company. They wanted a tentative agreement by the end of 2011. If they didn’t get that, they said they’d take the money and go elsewhere,” he said. “I take them at their word.”
It's not the union or the company that failed here. The American middle class worker is committing mass suicide.