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Union: Standard workers offered WARN minimum

January 18, 2008
By Melissa Topey,
Officials with American Standard Americas are not offering former employees any more than required by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, a union official says.

With bargaining efforts between the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers International Union Local 7-A and company officials done, local employees were told at an informational meeting Thursday more details of what they would receive.

Ron Fatzinger, president of the local union, said the company did not offer any more then required by the WARN Act.

“Bain (Capitol) said they only owned the company for a couple weeks and they don’t feel they owe the employees anything,” Fatzinger said. “Usually when people work for a company 30- some years, the company feels obligated to give a reward for services rendered.”

He estimated 99 percent of union members had at least 20 years working for American Standard; most had more than 30 years.

The WARN Act requires employers with more than 100 employees to provide 60 days’ notice of a plant closing.

If they do not give this notice, the company is liable for back pay and benefits for the remaining 60 days to eligible employees. American Standard Americas announced a tentative decision to stop production at the plant Nov. 27. The closing of the Tiffin plant officially was announced by American Standard Americas Dec. 5, with the last day of production at the plant Dec. 21.

There are no severance packages being offered to employees. Medical coverage from Bain is to end Feb. 29. Employees will be offered the option to continue coverage through COBRA for $800 a month, Fatzinger said.

After the meeting Thursday some employees appeared confused and were asking union officials questions about the agreement.

Fatzinger said some people did not know what to expect because they have not seen any dollar figures for what they will receive from their pension accounts. The employee pension will be paid from American Standard and Trane, he said.

“They’ve lost faith in the company and don’t trust them until they see those numbers,” Fatzinger said of employees.

One employee who is waiting for his pension figure is Kenneth Gaietto, who has been employed at the company for 22 years. Gaietto was the last employee called back from the last round of layoffs that occurred at the plant.

Gaietto is 49 and will have to wait until he is 65 to receive full pension payments. He could receive reduced benefits in six years.

That money could be helpful in paying his bills. The only job he said he has found in Seneca County is Farmland Foods at $11.18 per hour. He was making $18.10 per hour.

“They’re not going to lower my property tax or sewer,” Gaietto said. “The unemployment representative said I would be lucky to (get) within 40 miles of Tiffin to find a job that pays the same.”

Gaietto said he grew up on Second Avenue, close to the plant, and as a boy thought it would be a good place to work.

Not all aspects of negotiations have been settled.

Jerri Haver, vice president in the local union, said there could be problems obtaining the training.

Haver said American Standard Americas is claiming production at the plant was not shifted out of the U.S. but that the company closed.

Fatzinger said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown has been helping the union with trying to obtain approval for the training.

In addition to training and job referrals, it also provides extra insurance, extended unemployment benefits and subsidies wages.

Another glitch that could occur is a union grievance filed with the National Labor Relations Board.

Fatzinger said a labor contract was imposed on the union. He said on April 30, 2002, labor negotiations were occurring between the union and American Standard. At 10:30 p.m., the company presented its final offer and local union officials took it back to its members. After discussions, the union contacted the company and told them they rejected the offer with the understanding they would continue negotiations. American Standard told the union the contract they had at midnight was the new contract and they were invoking management right.

He said hearings have been held, including a federal judge ruling in favor of the union. He said the case is to go before a panel of five federal judges in Washington, D.C., and the union needs two judges to uphold the previous ruling.

With the potential of lost wages being paid it could affect pension amounts and Bain Capitol would have to recalculate employee pensions.

Phone calls to American Standard Americas were not returned.



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