WARREN - GE officials made it official Friday when they told workers the General Electric Ohio Lamp plant will close early next year.
The decision came after unionized workers on Monday voted down a new contract to increase profitability negotiated by union leadership and management as a last-ditch effort to keep the plant running. Instead, though, 198 workers, including 179 members of International Union of Electrical Workers-Communication Workers of America Local 722, will be displaced.
"Unfortunately, without ratification, GE was not able to move forward with the agreement, which has led to this decision to close," the company said in a statement released Friday afternoon. The closing will take place no earlier than Jan. 24, 2014.
Cheryl DeFoor and her husband, Michael DeFoor, parents of five children, both will lose their jobs inside the plant where they have each worked for more than 15 years. They are second-generation GE workers.
"I can't really say it was a surprise, but we still had that little bit of hope," Cheryl DeFoor said. "It was very depressing just getting the final say. There were a lot of tears."
Cheryl DeFoor said she and her husband have no plans yet for future job searches, but still she is optimistic.
"We are both hard workers, so there's no doubt in my mind we will be OK. It just sucks that we have to start all over again," she said.
Christopher Augustine, GE Lighting's manager of global communications and public affairs, agreed the news was hard to swallow.
"Even though we knew what the vote was for five days now, it's still difficult news to hear," Augustine said. "It's difficult to know that the plant is going to close."
About half of the affected employees are eligible for retirement or a plant closing pension option, the company said. In addition, all employees are eligible for GE's extensive plant-closing benefits including severance pay; continued medical, dental and life insurance coverage for the employee and his / her covered dependents; tuition reimbursement for education and retraining; preferential job placement at up to 10 GE locations; and more.
"GE's goal will be to use the long lead time of a year before closure to help our employees make a successful transition," the company statement stated.
Augustine said it's too early to say what will be done with the vacant building. He noted, however, that the lighting lines inside the Warren plant will be relocated to another GE plant.
From now until the closure, members of the sharply divided local will continue to work side by side inside the North Park Avenue plant. DeFoor said that won't be easy.
"It's hard to work with the people that voted no, but everybody has their own reasons for why they voted the way they did. But being a union worker for 15 years and growing up in a union household, you just don't vote to close the doors of a plant," she said.