TOWN OF TONAWANDA —
State Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, D-Kenmore, was one of the officials invited to tour the plant Thursday, and said he and others including state Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, were told of the plans to retain workers at the plant.
He said a product line of countertops now made in Korea called “Private Collections” is expensive to ship to large markets in the U.S. and that the company hopes to begin manufacturing products for that line in Tonawanda.
Officials, however, were not promised the move would create new jobs.
“Part of the reason for incentives is, in addition to jobs, it’s investment,” Schimminger, who supports tax credits for the plant through the state’s Excelsior program, said. “When we have a chance to bring jobs to the USA from Korea, I think we should all be pulling in the same direction.”
Jim Briggs, of the local United Steel Workers union, whose bargaining unit represents roughly 400 workers at the plant, said his unit largely agrees with the Clean Air Coalition, especially over citicisms of employee safety protocols.
He said cutting corners is not uncommon at the plant, and that employees “had to fight management” to rectify a propane leak a short time after the explosion that killed a subcontractor.
“Workers are getting killed and people think that place is operated safely and it’s not. Management cuts corners every day and what happened is they got caught in one of those cuts,” Briggs, whose unit is currently in negotiations, said.
Of the company’s safety policies, he said: “They’re really good at portraying it, just not living up to it.”
“This is a company that clearly needs help,” said Roger Cook, of the pollution prevention group represented during Thursday’s protest. “It’s exposing its workers to very toxic chemicals.”