Advanced manufacturing: Unions seen as negative, report says

SANDUSKY Erie County's unions represent a serious "negative" in the eyes of many advanced
JACOB LAMMERS
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

Erie County's unions represent a serious "negative" in the eyes of many advanced manufacturers, a study says.

"As long as this issue exists, Erie County will be automatically disqualified from the site location decisions of certain advanced manufacturing operations, regardless of what other assets may exist in the community," noted an economic development study.

Erie County and Northern Ohio's reputation as a "non-right-to-work" state means a person has to join a union when they enter a company, said Mark Litten, executive director of Erie County Economic Development Corp.

"Some companies may be fearful of strikes if they come here," Litten said. "There are a lot of factors that go into it."

Many companies that relocate here realize it's a union community, Erie County commissioner Tom Ferrell said.

"I don't view it as a deterrent," Ferrell said. "We have a skilled, hardworking community. Those wages were earned by people who want a career and a family."

Litten said Erie County's reputation as a union workforce is not an automatic "deal killer."

"It can be looked at as a positive or negative depending on the company," he said. "If the company is a unionized company and they're looking here, it's not going to be a negative."

Unions tend to offer a balanced approach that benefits the worker, but not the company, said Ralph Brumby, president of United Automotive Workers Local 913.

"The advantage of having a highly unionized workforce in our community is that all workers -- whether union or not -- benefit from higher wages," Brumby said. "The disadvantage is to the bottom line of the corporations, who want to pay lower wages and benefits to increase profits."

Representatives from UAW Local 1216 did not return calls seeking comment.