Trading Factories for Jails

It’s no secret that the past few decades have not been the best for America’s working class. The American economy’s productivity has also increased, but the workers’ share of the pie keeps getting smaller and smaller. At the same time, expenses such as college tuition and the cost of living have skyrocketed. For readily available information on this, see the documentary Inequality For All starring economist Robert Reich. Though far from being comprehensive, it is an excellent introduction to the gradual erosion of the American middle class. In terms of literature, on my own personal to-read list is Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century.

The current situation unfolding in Lancaster, Ohio, is a reflection of this erosion. There is an ongoing effort to undermine the working class. The crisis currently unfolding at Anchor Hocking is an expression of this. The parent company that owns Anchor Hocking, EveryWare Global, lost $38.4 million dollars in the first quarter of 2014. This breached credit agreements with their lenders. To compensate their losses, the CEOs are punishing the workers of Anchor Hocking for their own poor business performance. Hundreds have already been laid off. Furthermore, with no promises to keep the factory in operation through August, EveryWare Global wants to dramatically reduce the remaining workers’ pay and benefits. As one could imagine, this caught the eye of local and state representatives. On June 24th, the Lancaster Eagle Gazette wrote:

“Federal, state and local officials came together Monday morning at Anchor Hocking to see what they could do to help the company remain in Lancaster. Representatives from Gov. John Kasich’s office; JobsOhio; U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers; staff from U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman’s offices; Ohio Sens. Troy Balderson and Tim Schaffer; Fairfield County Commissioner Steve Davis; Lancaster Mayor Dave Smith; representatives of Columbus 2020; and the economic development directors for the city, Mike Pettit, and the county, Bob Clark, were among the people attending the meeting at the Lancaster plant.”

Credit to Plunderbund.com

Credit to Plunderbund.com

Far from being comforted, the workers of Lancaster should be terrified. Gov. John Kasich is a notorious union buster and clearly cares more about business interests than the working class. JobsOhio is a private corporation that uses public money to look after business interests. It’s the very essence of crony capitalism. On their board are the CEOs of Bob Evans Farmers Inc, Cavaliers Operating Company, Marathon Petroleum Corporation, United Dairy Farmers and others. It has also been discovered that they mysteriously have made over 1 million dollars’ worth of “undocumented” payments. Columbus 2020 is an allied organization that looks after the interests of Big Business in Columbus by providing corporate welfare and advocates for turning Columbus into a corporate tax free zone. They are the last people that would accurately represent the interests of the working class in the midst of this crisis. The likelihood that they would take seriously community driven efforts to save Anchor Hocking are slim to none.

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Deborah Smalley and her husband David (who looks like he could be a L. Ron Hubbard look-alike).Credit to the Columbus Dispatch

Fairfield County officials aren’t too much better. The Deborah Smalley scandal involving organized crime is just the tip of the iceberg. During the course of this financial crisis that will devastate the town, Fairfield County also officials want to rebuild the county jail in Lancaster. As expected, the Lancaster Eagle Gazette published an article on the new jail site proposal between Lincoln and Wheeling that was completely misleading. Among other things, in order to give the reader a proper feel of the scope of the project, there ought to be a comparison and contrast between the new and old jails. The new jail proposal will make it several times bigger. Furthermore, there is concern that the new jail will pollute our drinking water and would create insurmountable obstacles for the downtown renovation effort. A jail right in the middle of town hurts local businesses and depreciates the land-value of already struggling families.

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Plans for the new jail in the Lancaster Eagle Gazette. Of course they didn’t feature an outline of the old jail for comparison and contrast.

How much will the new jail cost Fairfield County? According to their own figures, it will be about $27.4 million but there are additional factors that could easily raise the price such as tearing down the current jail, environmental cleanup, and property acquisition. More than likely it will be in the lower $30 million dollar range. That’s a little less than the amount of money EveryWare Global lost due to their corporate mismanagement.

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The old jail as viewed from Google maps.

This is why the Save Anchor Hocking project is so important. The Fairfield county officials are trading a factory that is the backbone of the local economy for a jail that may pollute our water and is incompatible with the downtown renovation effort. They, county officials and EveryWare Global executives, are both selling us out with roughly the same amount of money. Instead, the community needs to band together to look out for our interests and those of the working-class. Whether you are conservative or liberal, the Save Anchor Hocking movement needs your support to keep Lancaster alive!