The automotive bearings plant that's been a major employer in the region for more than 60 years will close if it can't get contracts for new work.
That's the fear for a group of retired workers and current employees at Kyklos Bearing International (KBI), the factory at Perkins and Hayes avenues formerly known as New Departure and Delphi.
The group hopes to spread a call to action, starting with a letter to local governments seeking support to save the plant.
"We are asking you to please become involved in trying to keep this facility viable," states the letter, which was hand-delivered to Erie County commissioners, Sandusky city commission and the Perkins Township trustee board. "Should the plant close it would be devastating to the community. These are high-paying jobs that could not be replaced. The lost revenue and added social cost to the county should motivate us all to do everything possible to keep the plant a strong and growing business.”
The group wants local governments to approve resolutions asking General Motors and other potential customers to bring new business to the plant. The group also asked local officials to contact state and federal legislators for help in saving the plant.
Sam Artino, a Huron city commissioner and a retiree from the plant when it was known as Delphi, said the letter was also delivered to the Sandusky and Perkins school boards. More letters will be sent to lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and others.
“KBI is the same plight as every other plant. It is the plight of the middle class in manufacturing,” Artino said.
KBI has about 500 hourly and 80 salaried employees, far fewer than in the plant's heyday.
Employees have fought to save the plant for years, even offering at times to take pay cuts, said Chris Sims, UAW shop chairman.
That effort comes up against unfair marketing practices, he said. One competing bearings manufacturer offered to sell GM finished product at a cost lower than it is just to buy the raw materials needed to manufacture the bearings.
"Even if everyone worked for free, the quote would be impossible to beat," Sims said.
That company is based overseas but has a plant in South Carolina, he said.
Pricing a product below what it would cost to produce is known as dumping, he said, and it is done to unfairly undermine a competitor.
Artino said the letter already has gotten some attention. The group has been invited to the Aug. 26 Sandusky city commission meeting.
“Keeping these jobs is a No. 1 priority for the county, the city, the township," Sandusky city commissioner Wes Poole said. "All governments should be working together doing whatever is possible.”
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