Tuesday, August 16, 2005

 

Wacky, anti-labor Ex-AK steel exec to run against DeWine

John Hritz is not someone we know a whole lot about, but we hope to know more about him from some of our labor friends since he has apparently decided to run for Mike DeWine's U.S. Senate seat.

If you think this news comes from the Ohio media - think again. This story is from the Nashville Business Journal, which raises an interesting question. The story description of Hritz as currently being a "Local CEO" suggests that his residency is in Tennessee and not Ohio.

Having to re-establish his residency and gin-up support for his candidacy in Ohio might be a stretch for Hritz since, as we recall, he left his last job in Ohio on less than favorable terms and was known as being, uh . . . a little "intense".

Hritz served as president of AK Steel along with then-company CEO and chairman Richard Wardrop during a bitter labor dispute involving the steelworkers in Middletown and Mansfield, OH.

Wardrop & Hritz were apparently forced out by a fed-up Board of Directors of AK Steel in 2003 after picking fights with the steelworkers unions, environmentalists, Gov. Taft and even the Chamber of Commerce. The Middletown Journal diplomatically described the Wardrop/Hritz years as "full of friction."

A story in the Enquirer also picked up on this theme:
Although board members haven't talked publicly, the company said at the time that the move was to try a fresh approach to the company's continuing losses; depressed stock price; and strained relations with employees, government officials and some customers.
The Plain Dealer also confirms the stories we had heard that Wardrop and Hritz were pricks and ham-handed negotiators:
The departure of Wardrop and Hritz may pave the way for more amicable labor talks. "The old management under Wardrop was just heading for a train wreck," steel analyst Mike Locker said. ". . . He didn't know how to negotiate. He knew how to dominate."
Now, we don't really recall who was worse, Wardrop or Hritz, but we do remember hearing about a least one wild story involving Hritz and a group of strikers. Friends steered us to a web page (about 1/3 of the way down the page) that offers some details of the alleged Nov. 2001 incident:
[O]ur Road Crew continues to go to the executives' neighborhoods twice per week. On one such visit, Local 169 members were confronted by a fully camouflaged (complete with face paint) John Hritz. After making several false statements and some heavily veiled threats, all in the presence of the Mason Police who did nothing, Mr. Hritz returned to his home where some very eerie organ music was coming from. Many think he may soon be a candidate for a strait jacket and a rubber room.

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