A few of Wheatland Tube Co.’s Sharon Warehouse workers left the plant Friday with a little flair. One peeled out of the parking lot on his motorcycle.
For the 44 production and maintenance employees represented by United Steelworkers Local 1016-00, it was the last full day of work as the plant is set to be closed.
While workers will return this morning for a final walkaround the plant which won’t take long, the plant’s true last day was Friday.
“It’s a shame it had to end this way. It’s the end of an era,’’ said Richard Clark, a 42-year veteran and the plant and president of Local 1016-00.
Wheatland Tube announced two months ago it was closing the plant which did finishing work on pipe products along with having a warehouse. Workers said they expected the announcement as production had been steadily shifted to other Wheatland Tube plants in recent years.
Stretching along a section of Sharpsville Avenue, the plant’s hey-day is long gone as a combination of imports and shifting business patterns took its toll.
“This is a business decision,’’ Clark said. “It’s not closing because of the workers.’’
A decade ago, the warehouse and pipe plant operated as a division of the former Sawhill Tubular Products Co. that had several owners since the 1970s.
Wheatland Tube bought the plant in 2002 and massive layoffs there began in 2005.
“We all have Sawhill in our hearts,’’ Clark said.
Even in its declining years the plant was a stellar performer, he recalled, as it received numerous safety awards and had the lowest absentee rate among Wheatland Tube plants.
“This was a self-directed workforce,’’ Clark said. “For years we’ve only had one supervisor here.’’
Workers will not get a severance package but the company did negotiate a shutdown agreement that Clark said was fair. All of the remaining workers are eligible for retirement and will receive retirement health care insurance. A few of the workers may be rehired at other Wheatland Tube operations but they will have to start as new employees.
When the final timecards are collected this morning, all the workers plan to gather together for a buffet breakfast.
“We’re a family really,’’ Clark mused. “These guys have a lot of pride. They’ll go out with dignity.’’