NILES - City Prosecutor Terry Swauger on Friday filed a criminal complaint against Phillips Manufacturing for breaking a city ordinance that prohibits the hiring of professional strike breakers in place of employees who are involved in a labor dispute.
A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 11 in Niles Municipal Court.
About 44 members of United Steelworkers Local 4564-02 have been on strike since Sept. 13 over what they say are unfair wages, benefits and working conditions. They had been working without a contract since Aug. 9.
The plant manufactures steel parts used with plasterboard in the construction industry.
Councilman Dan Wilkerson said he has been on the strike line every other day.
"I remembered we had a law dealing with companies bringing in workers to replace people involved in a work stoppage," Wilkerson said. "I asked the clerk of council to look up the ordinance and took it to the administration."
The original ordinance to block companies from bringing in workers to replace those on strike was passed in the mid-1960s and updated in 1971, Wilkerson said.
The councilman said he wants the replacement workers out of the plant, so the company will return to the negotiating table.
"The law was passed in the 1970s," Mayor Ralph Infante said. "It is a law that is on our books, and I guess the prosecutor decided to enforce it."
The ordinance said the law prohibits companies and their agents to recruit or employ people to jobs held by people involved in a labor dispute. It also makes it illegal for people to repeatedly offer themselves to replace people involved in a labor dispute.
Anyone convicted of breaking the misdemeanor offense may be punished by a fine not less than $500 or be imprisoned for no more than 6 months.
Infante said he hopes that both sides return to the table to find a way to end the strike.
"You can't end a strike if no one is talking," Infante said.
Brad Garlock, a spokesman with Phillips Manufacturing, said the company is aware of the complaint.
"The matter is in litigation and has been referred to our counsel," he said. "We will speak through the legal proceedings."
Union officials did not return repeated calls for comment.