Voices From the Kongsberg Lock Out  

So, I'm originally from Ohio and I figured I'd take a look at the local Van Wert papers to see if I could locate any information on the lock out. I found some interesting comments about it on The Van Wert Times Bulletin:

Posted: Monday, April 07, 2008
Article comment by: laura davis

Niki you have voiced a question that many, MANY, people are asking today. Over 300 people were locked out of their jobs last week. Three hundred productive, tax-paying voters who want nothing more than to do an honest day's work for a reasonable day's wage. Van Wert county's unemployment rate is already higher than we've seen in many, many years, yet after locking out those workers our elected officials "stand ready to assist the company in any way they can?" And they are there to "offer support to the company and to local officials?" These statements have many people puzzling over our elected official's priorities. If they have our community's best interests at heart, would they not be more concerned with finding a solution to help BOTH parties in this situation rather than "assist and support" the company alone? This lockout is going to have a negative effect on the community in countless ways, and I believe that everyone in the area would like to see it resolved satisfactorily for EVERYONE involved.

Posted: Monday, April 07, 2008
Article comment by: niki motycka

Why are the state and local governments putting their support behind the company? I understand that it is important for Van Wert to keep as many of the current businesses but, what about the workers who are now walking the street? It was the company's decision to lock the doors. I know many people who have worked at Teleflex for many years and are now being asked to take a $9 an hour pay cut. I wish that everyone in this community would sit back and think about this. If you had worked at a company for the last 25 years and then all of a sudden a couple of dollars is taken away from your hourly rate. Ok you are upset but at least you still have your job and health insurance. Then that same company wants you to give up $9 more. What are you supposed to do? That company wants the workers who have put in most of there lives to work for only $9 on hour. After taxes that is only about $300 a week. If you have kids you cannot hardly make it on that. Why are we sitting here and letting our local government take the side of the company when we elected them to represent us? With gas prices and living expenses soaring I think all of our government officials need to reevaluate this suituation.

And this story from the same paper:

Kongsberg lockout: Day 1

Times Bulletin News Writer


VAN WERT - The first full day of the lockout at Kongsberg Automotive saw no changes in either labor or management positions. Workers who voted down the auto parts manufacturer's contract offer stood just off company property with picket signs. Meanwhile private security remained on site at the facility to make sure the locked out workers stayed out.

Early in the morning hours, windows at the facility were boarded up and private buses began bringing in replacement workers to make parts for considerably less wages than the locked-out employees.

Meanwhile city officials expressed their hope for an early end to the lockout. "I just hope the union and company management can get this worked out," stated Nancy Bowen, Van Wert County economic development director. "I think everybody feels the same. We'll do anything we can do to help, and I've let the company know that."

Bowen revealed that she will be meeting Friday morning with company officials to see if anything can be done to resolve the situation.

"We don't know if there is anything we can do, but we're going to explore it and see," Bowen explained. "It's really an issue between the union and the company, but it always helps to talk and at least let the company know that they are important to our community and our economy."

Van Wert Mayor Louie Ehmer agreed that the presence of Kongsberg in Van Wert is important. "If they would shut down we could lose a lot of tax money, close to a quarter of a million dollars a year."

Ehmer shared that he had personally visited the site of the lockout to be sure there were no problems related to the city. Van Wert City Police Chief Joel Hammonds confirmed that through the day on Thursday there had been no legal issues at the factory site.

"There have been no problems," he said. "Both sides have been great. They've set up and they are within the law, and that's all we ask from both sides."

Some of the union workers had expressed concern that police cruisers were present, wondering aloud if officers were there to protect incoming replacement workers. Hammonds flatly denied that charge.

"Our policy stipulates that we are neutral," he declared. "We're just to insure that the public peace is kept and that traffic can move to and from the facility and surrounding businesses. That's our role. We've been patrolling out there to maintain the peace."

Or these Worker Voices on the Van Wert Independent

Woman of Kongsberg worker concerned
To The Editor:

Being a family that is affected by the recent developments at Kongsberg Automotive (Teleflex), I feel compelled to write to ask (for) the support of the Van Wert and surrounding community. I think some people are of the opinion that these displaced workers are on strike, which is not the case ... these people WANT to work and were willing to continue working under their current contract until something could be ratified. The COMPANY chose to lock these people out and bring in employees from a temporary staffing company. This was the choice of the COMPANY not the UNION EMPLOYEES. These people are your neighbors, your children, or even grandchildren, and are trying to achieve the American dream: To own their own home, to provide nice things for their families.

My husband is a 29-year employee at Kongsberg, this being the only job he has known since graduation from high school. I think that it is totally unfair to ask these people to take a cut in pay as the company is asking. After 29 years to only make $10 an hour ... this is mind boggling at best to even imagine that this could even be given a yes vote. I would like to commend the local businesses who have said they will not cross the lines to provide services to Kongsberg and also wonder if the Fair Board is endorsing the activity of letting these people park their cars on their grounds and allowing the busing of these people into the plant.

If they do stand behind this, I can guarantee that there will be at least 350 families that will boycott the Van Wert County Fair this year.

The trickle down will be seen quickly, these people will no longer be spending money to go to the gym for workouts ... no longer be spending as much money at the grocery stores or eating establishments. Please, drive by these workers on Industrial Drive, honk your horn in support of their cause, and know that they are not looking to prosper – only to maintain their current level of income ... they are not asking for a huge raise, but have stated on numerous occasions that they would hold with their current wage.

With the rising cost of gas and everything else, I think this is commendable. Thank you for the opportunity to voice my opinion.

Michelle Brincefield

Van Wert
via email


Kongsberg: Not bargaining in good faith
To the editor:

It should be obvious to the good citizens of Van Wert and the surrounding area that Kongsberg is not bargaining in good faith. With a single, swift, unethical maneuver they have put over 300 people out of work. Many of these people are individuals with whom I personally worked until 1992.
For all of you wonderful owners of Kongsberg who supposedly want so badly to bring these people back to work let me tell you that they are much more than just numbers. They are people, real flesh and blood people who have given a good portion of their lives to work at your Van Wert facility and produce the quality automotive parts that make your profits. I can remember many of them going through personal crisis after personal crisis and still coming to work. I can remember at least one of the employees giving the ultimate sacrifice and ending up being carried out on a stretcher, never to return.
Even after being wronged in various ways over the years by the previous owners, Teleflex, these dedicated workers stayed on the job and gave you an honest day's work. Kongsberg, I think most people can see that you have no intention of settling this lockout. You have the mindset and mentality of 19th century industrialists. I truly think that if you could get away with it you would hire 12 year olds and pay them a dollar a day.
Now, you have added insult to injury by denying these workers unemployment. Many of these people have serious medical conditions and require expensive medications. Do they eat or do they get their medicine? Maybe neither. I simply do not see how any company can be so heartless.
The previous writer was correct that the damage is going to go much further than the individuals who are now unemployed. Every business in the area is going to feel the sting. All of Van Wert is going to suffer and the tax base will decrease dramatically. The next bond up for vote in Van Wert might be doomed to rejection. City Fathers, think about that.
I also agree with the comment about the fair board allowing the scabs to use the fairgrounds and I really hope that each and every one of these workers remember the "thoughtfulness" of the fair board. Not only will many of these people boycott the next fair but even if they wanted to, many of them won't have the extra money to spend on the fair. What goes around comes around.
As far as the scabs themselves, yes, I know they need jobs, too, but at the expense of their neighbors? That's totally unacceptable.
I will close by saying that no matter what happens the good workers of Kongsberg will hold their heads up high because they were not the cause of this and I sincerely think … no, I KNOW that Kongsberg's so called leaders will someday get their reward for this gross injustice.

Gary Lane
Van Wert
via email


Kongsberg management given shot
To the Editor:
In the day of global economy and the fierce competition it would be understandable the companies are looking for ways to reduce cost, but should it not start at the TOP management, including the CEO paychecks?
Did Kongsberg not know the pay scale when they made the purchase? Was it their intent all along to get rid of the current workforce? Will the CEO get a BIG bonus for putting over 300 families out of work? How does the Board of Directors of the company justify that? Or does it matter, it doesn't affect them … yet.
Can the top management live on what they expect the employees to? Are they willing to take the same percentage cut in pay? People have built their lives around wages they have been earning for years and had no reason to believe this drastic of cuts would happen.

Who is going to buy all the homes that will be foreclosed on or the vehicles that will be repossessed? The CEO of Kongsberg?

If all companies continue to do this, who is going to have the money to buy any of the products (including cars) being made? China? Mexico? Brazil?

The concept that you start with the workforce that makes the company products, therefore producing the money that pays EVERYONE does not hold water You don't bite the hand that feeds you. I am self-employed and know that I cannot expect employees to bite the bullet when I am not willing to do it also.

It seems common sense has been left out of the equation.

America has sold its soul (land, companies, etc.) to foreign companies for the almighty dollar and the foreign companies do not care about their employees or what they do to them and the communities. This (Kongsberg) is a good example.

I believe employees would be willing to negotiate and be reasonable but it seems they have not been given that opportunity by Kongsberg. It was their way or be LOCKED OUT. That's the American way? If you don't like the American way of life, stay where you are.

Georgianna Adkins

Van Wert
via email


Writer upset over Kongsberg actions
To the Editor:
I have a question for Mr. Aberdeen, plant manager of Kongsberg. Why haven't you paid your property taxes? As of now, you owe $21,929 in back taxes and penalties. You won't pay your taxes, you refuse to negotiate in good faith with you employees and you feel compelled to bring in "security" to maintain the peace. These aren't the actions of a company "committed" to the Van Wert plant. These are the actions of a company looking to provoke an excuse to abandon the Van Wert plant.

So when does Kongsberg intend to tell us they're moving the product line to their new 350,000 SF plant in Brazil? And the 300 plus employees left in Van Wert are the victims of the "global economy?"
Kirby R. Kelly
Van Wert
via email

The local media in Van Wert is at least talking about it. Doesn't seem to be anywhere else right now.


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