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Trade unions picket for area workers

Protest Old Dominion’s use of out-of-state skilled laborers for construction of terminal

WARREN — Old Dominion Freight will not respond to calls asking the company to use local labor when they build a new terminal in Lordstown.

Through a public relations firm Wednesday, the company declined to comment. The company hired as a project manager, Furst Construction, did not respond to a message seeking comment left at its Salt Lake City office.

Local trade unions Wednesday morning stood in front of the building site on state Route 45 in Lordstown to picket the project. They brought a large, inflatable rat to send a message.

“We are saying, ‘Don’t bring in workers to take union, skilled trade work from the Valley. Don’t bring in workers from six states over to take our work,'” said Tony Deley, business manager for Ironworkers Local 207.

“We are voicing our opposition to these types of practices because they damage our community and the foundation of what skilled trade unions do for the community,” said Justin Rance, a representative for Indiana / Kentucky / Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters.

Deley and Rance said they aren’t talking about unskilled construction labor, but skilled trade jobs.

The unions pay to get their members the best training so they can do the best possible work, Deley said. When companies use local labor, it helps create new jobs and opportunities within the skilled trades and bolsters the local economy, Rance said.

And when companies hire skilled workers in the communities, they are building in, that keeps more money local. Deley said they don’t have a problem with Old Dominion bringing in Furst Construction to lead the project, but the workers shouldn’t be bused in from Missouri when the Valley already has skilled laborers.

The company hasn’t responded to their requests, unlike TJX HomeGoods last year, said Jim Taylor, business representative for Painters Local 476. After protesting the company’s initial choice to use out-of-state labor, the company adjusted its plans.

“TJX worked with us,” Taylor said.

But Old Dominion hasn’t responded to their attempts to talk, Deley said.

The trade unions also have been pressuring Trumbull County commissioners — for several years now — to make new rules for companies that are granted tax abatements by the county.

Old Dominion is seeking a 60 percent abatement on the all-new construction for 10 years for the $6 million project expected to be 30,400 square feet on about 15 acres.

Commissioners have not yet approved the abatement, although Lordstown council on Tuesday approved a 40 percent abatement for 10 years. Commissioners said they are seeking legal opinions to determine if they can require the use of local labor in exchange for tax breaks, but Taylor and Deley argue other Ohio communities have the language in their agreements.

“We expect our elected officials to look out for our communities,” Deley said. “Stop cutting us off; stop cutting the community off at the knees,” Deley said, directing the comments to the commissioners. “It is the duty of local elected officials to protect the community. Protect it.”

One of the ideas the county is considering is a weighted system that gives more “points” and therefore more lucrative abatement packages for companies that commit to using local labor.

It is unclear if commissioners will have responses on their legal questions about adding clauses to their tax abatement agreements before they vote on the abatement for Old Dominion, which is set next week.

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