Sharon Herald, Thursday July 3rd, 1997 edition (Volume 89, Number 77.)
Hempfield Township "Reznor is rapped for moving line to Mexico" By Hal Johnson Herald Staff Writer
U.S. Rep. Phil English said more than 100 jobs could have stayed at the Reznor plant in Mercer if the company had invested in its production capabilities.
During a Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce breakfast Wednesday, the Erie Republican criticized the company's decision to move its heater-production line to Mexico. Reznor previously got a similar verbal blasting from U.S. Rep. James A. Trafficant, Poland, Ohio, D-17th District, who said the North American Free Trade Agreement was to blame.
On Tuesday, plant owner Thomas & Betts Corp. announced it would move the heater-production line from Mercer to Mexico. Layoffs are expected to start in October. The announcement followed workers' rejection of the company's demand that they give back a total of $2.20 an hour in wages and other benefits.
English said he was "very disappointed" in the company's decision. "Impossible conditions were placed on the community and the work force," the 21st District congressman said.
"If Reznor had invested in its production and experience, this issue would never have risen," English said.
He sited Advanced Monobloc Corp. as an example. The Hermitage can maker plowed capital into its plant and is able to export its product, he said.
Reznor didn't do that, he said. "It looks like it (the Mexico decision) was made quite awhile ago and they were looking for a way to ratify it," English said.
"American workers ... when investment is made in their plant, will show productivity to beat workers anywhere else in the world," he said.
NAFTA is being blamed for Reznor's decision to use cheaper labor in Mexico and export its product back into the United States. But under NAFTA, "companies can compete when American workers are 10 times as productive as Mexicans," English said.
"If we invest capital into companies here, we can keep workers here," he said.
While English focused on the company's actions, a spokesman for Trafficant said Reznor's decision to move the line was "a sad commentary on the state of the U.S. economy."
Press Secretary Paul Marcone said Traficant was "very disappointed but not surprised" by the move.
The problem, Marcone said, isn't with corporate America's desire to make a larger profit but with policies supported by the president and Congress that allow companies to move jobs to MExico and export products tariff-free. Traficant, he said, is commited to repealing NAFTA and reinstating tariffs on Mexican goods.
The House recently passed a balanced budget bill and a tax-cut package to be sent to the Senate.
"The balanced budget is realistic and the tax cuts are realistic and targeted to the middle class and part of it is targeted to small business," English said.
The new tax code better defines independent contractor and allows the federal unemployment compensation surcharge to expire, he said.
Separately, Gerald Hanley, president of United Steelworkers Local 7099, bitterly complained Wednesday that Thomas & Betts was sending jobs to Mexico at a time when it was earning record profits. The local represents 325 Reznor workers.
Thomas & Betts earned $59.9 million in 1996, and its chief executive officer, T. Kevin Dunnigan, raked in $1.722 million in salary, bonus and other compensation, Hanley said.
Herald Staff Writer Nick Hildebrand and Herald Business Editor Michael Roknick contributed to this story.