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Something is missing amid good news

Business Sense

February 28, 2010
Larry Ringler

I'm sure there have been other months filled with the kind of good economic news we've had since late January, but darned if I can remember them.

Somehow, though, despite the several thousand-plus jobs that have been restored or created since Severstal North America Inc.'s announcement Jan. 25 that it will restart its Warren steel mill, there's a nagging sense that something is missing.

Maybe it's fairness.

I'm sure the 267 hourly and salaried Denman Tire Corp. workers are happy to see other area industrial workers get back to work, even though they're laid off and just got notice last week that the tire plant will close in 60 days.

Ditto for many of the 1,500 Delphi Packard Electric salaried retirees whose pension checks are getting whacked by federal pension insurer Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

But I'll bet they're none too thrilled with some of the other stuff that's occurring. Things like billions of tax dollars to bail out fat cat Wall Street types so they can party on millions more in bonuses for doing such a fine job during the economic meltdown.

Let's not forget the vote-grubbing politicians who rammed legislation through Congress so numbskulls could buy quarter-million dollar houses without proving they were earning enough to buy furniture or a lawn mower.

Or the fly-by-night mortgage companies that leased a closet in a strip plaza to collect fat fees for writing loans they then would sell to greedy investors.

Or appraisers who but I digress. The issue at hand is not who's to blame for the mess but how fair our leaders are going to be in righting the wrongs done to hard-working employees and retirees.

The obvious answer is Obamabucks for all. If President Reagan were alive, he might demand: "Mr. Obama, cough up the money."

Denman Tire owner Sanford ''Sandy'' Pensler went on record a year ago seeking a measly $3 million in government stimulus money to keep the doors open or $10 million in government orders for tires.

The government-Wall Street connection had mismanaged the economy to the point that credit was frozen, bringing construction, mining and other companies that use Denman's offroad tires to a grinding halt.

The result: Denman workers who for generations have worked through the heat, cold, dirt and danger that exists in any factory stand to lose paychecks, health care and, most dangerous of all, the hope that Obama talked so much about.

Ditto for Delphi salaried retirees. Some tell stories of devoting 60 hours or more a week to Delphi Packard, missing their children's ballgames or plays because a project had to be finished on time, and being willing to make those sacrifices because they believed in the company.

And they believed in the promise of a pension, life insurance and health care when they were too old to work.

So much for words, they're finding out.

To be fair, area elected officials have mobilized. They've set up Congressional hearings so retirees can make their case to lawmakers. They've written letters to Obama urging his aid. They've passed resolutions to support workers and retirees.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, have introduced legislation calling for stimulus dollars to be used to set up health care plans for retirees and workers.

Denman workers may have to help with a new contract, but those things are best worked out by company and union bargainers.

In careers where failure was never an option, Denman Tire and Delphi salaried retirees are telling politicians from Obama on down that failure on their part is not an option.

It's a message worth heeding.



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