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Wage battle to save bearings factory

Register • Jun 15, 2013 at 8:51 PM

Excerpt: If there is an effort to save the KBI bearings plant from being driven out of business, then it's a quiet gathering working below the radar. We're not sure a strategy without publicity can work and we're troubled by concerns workers and  retired employees of the former New Departure factory shared after a labor contract was signed earlier this month. They said they feared this contract could be the last one at the factory that for generations was the No. 1 employer in the region. 

The auto industry dominated the local economy for six decades, but as the plant at Perkins and Hayes avenues potentially winds down, with wages now considerably lower than in years past and a work force considerably diminished in number, there is no fanfare and no effort we can discern to save it from extinction. 

New Departure was a General Motors property before it was Delphi and before it was KBI, but it's fate was perhaps sealed when GM shed it and the previous contracts and Delphi bankruptcy hog-tied its future. 

Plant workers clock-in and clock-out every day without any job security  It appears now the clock might be ticking away to the final days for KBI workers and their families. The employees and retirees said they fear  the new contract — which primarily extends the wage agreements forged in courts over the years — will be the last one. The contact expires Sept. 14, 2015.  

We'd like to see a coalition of leaders — including U.S. senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur — develop a strategy to wage a very public campaign to preserve this factory. That same team might also examine what needs to be done to secure a long-term agreement to keep Ventra Sandusky, the former Ford plant on Tiffin Avenue. 

The jobs at KBI and Ventra are important to our local economy. Losing one or either of these factories will be a major blow to our communities and school districts, and it would create a hole in the economy and a void in opportunities and the way life has been lived in this area for more than 60 years. 

This is a battle that should be waged.

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