Connecticut Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley defended his business record on Thursday, saying he ultimately saved unionized workers' jobs following a lengthy strike at a Pennsylvania plant he previously owned.
During a tour of Middletown businesses, Foley told The Associated Press that hiring replacement workers during the early 1990s was "one of the tougher decisions" he made during his business career, but contends Connecticut needs that type of leadership and experience. Foley has come under fire from union leaders who support Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and claim Foley has an "ugly" past as a businessman.
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"We simply couldn't get the union to recommend to its workers that they come back to work, which is what they needed to do," Foley said. "So when they didn't, we couldn't let the company go under. We had customers depending on us. We had a lot of other employees. So we hired replacement workers and we would have preferred to have worked with the union and kept all of the employees, but the union didn't want to work with us. We had no choice."
Foley said "some of the workers who stuck with the union lost their jobs." But he said the ones who crossed the picket line and agreed to work management at T.B. Wood's Sons Co. "kept their jobs, kept their benefits, got a raise and decided that they didn't want to be represented by this union any more" and voted to separate from the United Auto Workers.
Lori Pelletier, executive secretary for the Connecticut AFL-CIO, contends Foley has a "pattern of injuring workers to his own benefit." She points to the approximately 260 worker UAW workers at T.B. Wood's Sons Co., as well as workers at the now defunct Georgia textile mill Foley once owned. Foley has repeatedly said he did not close the Bibb Manufacturing Co.
"He won't tell us what he'll do as governor," Pelletier said. "So the only thing we can go by his is past. And from our concern, his past is ugly."
Foley's business record has been a point of criticism for Democrats in both the 2010 gubernatorial race and this year's rematch with Malloy, who recently peppered Foley with questions about Bibb. Malloy accused him of mismanaging the mill to the point where he was forced to surrender control of the business to his bondholders. Malloy and the Democrats have also criticized Foley for his recent appearance in Sprague, where he appeared outside a paper box company that's closing. Some of the workers on hand felt Foley was blaming him for the closure, while Foley said he blamed Malloy's policies and local leaders.
State Democrats on Thursday pounced on Foley's uncertainty about how much he ultimately earned after selling T.B. Woods's Sons Co. While Foley said he was uncertain, a 2007 report from The Irish Times said Foley, a former U.S. ambassador to Ireland, said he would realize nearly $40 million.