The pressure is growing on Siemens to keep its former Dresser-Rand plant in Wellsville open. Joining the fight Wednesday to protect 250 layoffs are House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Brian Higgins and other Democrats who say the company is violating its promise to create jobs while benefiting from GOP tax breaks.
The high-level Democrats have joined Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the AFL-CIO and the Machinists Union International in pressuring Siemens to halt its plans to sell off part of the Wellsville business and move the rest out of state.
James Lewis has been an employee of the plant for 30 years.
“Two years ago, we had our 100 year anniversary, just after Siemens purchased the Dresser Rand facility," Lewis said during a press conference at the Capitol, "and they assured us, even at that celebration, that we were doing well and there were no worries for the future. We see how that ended up.”
Lewis said he is among those who will lose his job due to Siemens' decision in February to sell its government work to Curtis-Wright and move the remaining commercial work to Charlotte, NC.
"That’s 4,600 people in Wellsville it’s going to devastate," Lewis said, "because this is about $20 million annual liquid money that is not going to be circulated in this community anymore.”
Wellsville town officials have echoed Lewis' comments, as the rural Allegany County community has little other work that can compare to the union-scale wages of the Siemens machinists.
What is particularly goading to top Democrats is that Siemens is carrying out similar plans in other plants nationwide.
“Today, we are asking Siemens to reaffirm their commitment to the American worker in the American economy, out of an obligation that they have to this country,” said Congressman Brian Higgins Wednesday.
Some of these companies have taken tax breaks with one hand and are handing out pink slips with the other hand,” said Robert Martinez Jr., president of the International Association of Machinists.
WBFO reached out to Siemens for comment. The company issued the following statement:
"Our decision to close the Wellsville facility in 2020 was the result of a broad restructuring and consolidation initiative affecting Siemens divisions serving the oil and gas power generation industries.
"As announced in February – and approved in April following regulatory review – Curtiss-Wright has acquired the government business portion of our Wellsville operation. Already a well-recognized aerospace and defense contractor, the work performed in Wellsville is a natural fit for a company who serves as a leading contractor to the U.S. Navy.
"Since this announcement, we have negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement that IAM Local 1580 voted nearly unanimously in favor of and ratified on April 22nd. The package includes enhanced severance, hourly wage increases, and options to receive payments in lump sums -- all in recognition of the unique circumstances and flexibility we want to afford our employees over the next two years.
"Siemens is dedicated to supporting the transition of employees, fulfilling our commitments to customers, and remaining engaged in constructive dialogue with elected officials and leaders in the community."