Congressman Asks Court To Replace LTV Management - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Congressman Asks Court To Replace LTV Management

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) - U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich went to bankruptcy court in Youngstown on Wednesday and asked a judge to fire the top management of LTV Steel.

This comes one day after the company filed a motion seeking permission to close its steel division, which would cost 3,500 people in northeast Ohio their jobs.

Kucinich said that LTV could still be saved, if the court would appoint new managers who are willing to work for a solution.

The congressman is offering to work with union officials and LTV's creditors to come up with a new cost-saving plan that would keep the company's mills operating.

LTV Corp. asked a U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Tuesday for permission to halt its integrated steel operations and prepare them for sale. LTV also said it wanted permission to abandon its previous labor agreement. LTV filed for bankruptcy court protection from creditors on Dec. 29.

"LTV no longer has sufficient liquidity or sources of other capital to operate the integrated steel facilities," the company said in a statement.

Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers of America, blasted the company for asking to shut down. Gerard said he and LTV Chairman William H. Bricker were in the middle of a telephone conversation about possible cost-saving amendments to the company's labor deal when the liquidation petition was filed in a Youngstown bankruptcy court.

"I have never before been lied to in that fashion," Gerard said.

But company spokesman Mike LaWell told a union gathering late Tuesday, "The negotiations process remains open. The negotiations remain active."

LTV was obligated to file the petition because under current financial constraints, the company will never be profitable, LaWell said. But if the company can reach a new contract with its workers to save money, LTV may survive.

"We are in complete agreement that all hope is not lost," LaWell said.

Meanwhile, Kucinich and other local leaders are pushing other solutions to the problem.

Kucinich said he plans to ask the bankruptcy court to let him negotiate a new restructuring plan that would keep LTV solvent.

"We are not going to stand idly by and watch Cleveland lose its steel business, and watch Cleveland lose its steel jobs," said Kucinich, who played host on Tuesday night to a gathering of several dozen workers and politicians in his district office.

U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown said he believes that there is still hope the company and union can work out a deal to keep LTV afloat.

"Tonight's meeting may begin to bring them back together to make one more attempt at really working this out so that most of these jobs are saved," Brown said.

In August, the Steelworkers approved a new contract with LTV that cut labor costs in an attempt to save the company. The agreement covered 9,000 LTV Steel employees, including 3,200 in northeast Ohio.

That deal allowed LTV, the nation's third-largest integrated steel maker, to reduce its work force by 1,300 "full-time equivalents" but required the company to rely on attrition, overtime reduction and cuts in contractor labor before laying off employees. LTV originally asked for 500 job cuts, but the union agreed to more to save health benefits and pensions.

LTV said that deal saved the company more than $250 million a year, but Gerard said company executives are now asking labor to trim another $140 million a year from wages and benefits.

LTV workers say that the company executives never intended to save the mills or the jobs that go with them.

Jim Crupper, 47, a 27-year LTV veteran who lives in North Ridgeville, said corporate leaders will have big bonuses waiting for them when the company shuts down.

"Their corporate people have taken millions of dollars in benefits, but they've done little to trim costs," said Crupper, a vice president of the 800-member steelworkers Local 1157.

"They've basically sat on the sidelines and raped the city, the state, the county, the federal government for everything they could get out of them. They're going to get their shutdown benefits," Crupper said.

LaWell of LTV said he would not respond to workers' personal attacks on management. He said he felt the corporate executives were negotiating in good faith.

LTV is the nation's third-largest integrated steel maker, meaning it takes the metal from ore to scrap. The company has a work force of about 17,000 and has operations in 17 states, Canada and the United Kingdom.

The proposal to halt operations would affect LTV's steel mills in Cleveland and Indiana Harbor in East Chicago. It would exclude the company's LTV Copperweld unit, which includes Copperweld Corp., Welded Tube Co. of America and the LTV Steel Tubular Division.

(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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