5/6/08

Unionist politics threaten jobs, investment

City Council begged to not take sides on pro-union federal legislation

Noting two out-of-town companies' current interest in Marion as the site for a call center, Pam Hall begged City Council not to take sides on a resolution of support for pro-union federal legislation. Council's jobs and economic development committee sent to council the resolution, which if approved would state council's support for the Employee Free Choice Act proposed by the Mid-Ohio AFL-CIO Labor Council.

At council's meeting Monday night, Hall, president of the Marion Area Chamber of Commerce, asked council members to consider that approval of the resolution could eliminate Marion from consideration for as many as 500 jobs that one of the call centers could create. The two companies identified Marion as a possible site for a call center because they are aware that Kable Fulfillment Services Inc., which once employed approximately 280 people, is closing by July, she said.

Reading from a letter she addressed to council members, Hall said she didn't want to debate the philosophical differences between supporters and opponents of the legislation. She asked council members to consider whether a resolution of support for or against federal legislation has any impact on those who vote on the legislation at the federal level. She said if they determined a local resolution of support had little effect to "give due consideration to the significant damage that could result to economic development efforts under way within our community."

After Councilman Ayers Ratliff made a motion to send the resolution back to the jobs and economic development committee, Councilman Mike Thomas said Hall's comments were the typical response to pro-union legislation that he has seen since he joined council in 1995. He called for a first reading of the resolution.

The Employee Free Choice Act would make it easier for workers to form unions by allowing them to sign cards in support of the union, rather than the current National Labor Relations Act, which requires a majority of employees to vote in a union election. Thomas, former president of the Mid-Ohio AFL-CIO, said the current law leads to intimidation of employees by employers.

Ivan Stithem, current president of the Mid-Ohio AFL-CIO, said the labor organization believes the NLRA "should be changed to make it a little bit easier for organized labor to come in and organize." He said a resolution of support by council is important. “Unions don’t hurt companies. They improve the work environment.”

Kable Fulfillment Services Inc., a subsidiary of Kable Media Services Inc., provides magazine subscription services and product and merchandise fulfillment for publishers and direct marketers. Kable Media Services Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of AMREP Corp., a major landholder and a leading developer of real estate in New Mexico. AMREP Corp. was organized in 1961.

Also addressing council Monday was Joe Hatcher, an employee of Kable Fulfillment Services, who said he hadn’t heard of the Employee Free Choice Act until earlier Monday.

“I won’t have a job in four months,” he told council members. He asked council to consider the employment fortunes of Kable employees when deciding whether to approve the resolution stating support for the federal legislation. Describing his motives as a “little selfish,” he said, “Any chance we have to get jobs in the community ... would be nice.”

Marion resident Ralph Hill said, “I think politics should stay with politics and labor with labor.”

Hall said both pro-union philosophies and anti-union philosophies are needed “to create a vibrant community ..., but I beg you, as a governing and elected body, please do not join together and side with one or the other of those philosophies. Allow Marion to be open to dialogue with all prospective companies, whether they be unionized or not. Let us not eliminate our citizens from employment opportunities by labeling our community with any label other than that we are a community that works together for our citizens and the success of our businesses.”

(centralohio.com)

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