Will Corporate America Heed Obama's Call to Responsibility?

"One day before his inauguration, millions of Americans answered President Barack Obama's call to greater service and responsibility," wrote International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers President Edwin D. Hill in the Newark Advocate.
"(His) call apparently never reached the Atlanta headquarters of Acuity Brands Inc., owners of the Holophane lighting fixture assembly plant in Newark (Ohio). The company, which declared fourth quarter 2008 operating profits of $73.7 million -- up 6 percent from 2007-- shut down a large part of the Newark plant earlier this month, sending some production to Mexico and the remainder to a plant in Indiana."

The company's tried to give the shutdown a "green spin", according to Hill.

Acuity Brands said it was "reducing its U.S. footprint" when the shutdown plans were announced last October. "Walked on and betrayed" would better describe the predicament faced by 102 members of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1853 who will lose their jobs, despite repeated requests by their local union to figure out ways to increase productivity and efficiency to keep the plant open.

Acuity even sent some off their soon to be laid off employees to Mexico to train workers who would be earning an average of $2 an hour to do their old jobs.

Sandy Sforza, a 16-year assembly line worker, is one of them. At 46, she needs to prepare for the rest of her life. That's why she accepted an offer of $8 an hour above her regular wage rate to travel to Mezquital, Mexico, to help set up Acuity Brand's new line, effectively training the person who will take her job for pennies on the dollar. "I don't blame the Mexican workers for what is happening," she said. "It's a shame that they will only make about $2 an hour for jobs that pay between $11 and $15 an hour here. That's not big money. But the profits still weren't enough. It's (Acuity's) greed that is shutting down the plant.

Read Hill's entire column on NewarkAdvocate.com here.

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The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers represents some 725,000 members in construction, utilities, manufacturing, telecommunications, broadcasting, railroads and government. We are the oldest, strongest and largest union devoted to electrical workers.

Tags: Acuity Brands, AFL-CIO, Edwin D. Hill, IBEW, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1853, Newark, Ohio (all tags)

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