Laid off brewery steward calls on lawmakers for help

A laid off shop steward at the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Lysander is sounding the alarm over jobs' futures at the big plant, and he's not alone. Both union members and management have lost jobs.Jim Durney, with the Teamsters' Union, says he doesn't blame the plant's new owners, InBev , or management at the plant, but he does blame New York's taxation practices. 'The new owner said they weren't going to close if there were no new taxes,' says Durney, 'it's showin' its face right now.'

In May, New York State began a beer excise tax at three cents a gallon. Durney says productivity at the plant is down - about half of capacity is expected next year, and brands formerly manufactured here are being produced elsewhere. 'Half the beer, half the jobs, it's not rocket science,' says Durney.Tuesday afternoon, Anheuser-Busch Baldwinsville Brewery general manager Stephen McCormick issued this statement:

"We are reducing a small number of salaried staff at our facility due to changes in our operational needs. Also, from time-to-time, seasonal fluctuations in the operational needs of the brewery dictate a temporary reduction in hourly manpower. We work to gain these reductions through volunteers who welcome the time off. This week there were nearly 20 employees who volunteered. In the event we do not receive enough volunteers, our labor contract allows for temporary, involuntary layoffs. This practice is not new. We have enacted voluntary time off and temporary layoffs for many years. We review staffing levels on a weekly basis to ensure we are meeting the operational needs of the brewery."

The union is not the only one concerned about job futures. Onondaga County Legislator Bob Warner, who represents Baldwinsville, says the new county budget will raise the plant's assessment by $80,000 a year. He blames County Executive Joanie Mahoney and the Democrats, who overrode a Republican plan that would have lowered the taxation rate. "It's just one more thing," he says, hoping it's not the tipping point.

Durney says he has emailed area politicians, including those just elected. He says no one has responded except Mahoney who "blew me off."

Durney says the business climate in the state is not good.

"Who's fighting for us?" he asks.