The AB&I Foundry in East Oakland is closing and moving operations to Texas, the company said Friday. About 200 union workers, many of them East Oakland residents, work at the foundry.
The announcement comes less than a month after Attorney General Rob Bonta sued the foundry, accusing the cast iron pipe manufacturer of violating state law by not warning neighbors that it spews cancer-causing chemicals into the air. East Oakland environmental justice groups have long complained about potentially harmful emissions from AB&I and pressured regulators to force the facility’s owners to clean up their operations.
Last year, AB&I said it planned to reduce emissions by shifting half of its 200 positions to Tyler, Texas, but now is moving all its jobs to the Lone Star state. The company had said “ever increasing regulatory standards” in California played a factor.
“After much deliberation, we came to the difficult decision that relocation of our operations from Oakland was the only course of action to ensure we can continue to serve our customers with high-quality pipe and pipe fittings,” AB&I President Michael Lowe said in a statement.
The shutdown will happen in stages with fitting operations ending around June 9. A full closure is expected within the year, the company’s press release said.
AB&I is located near the Coliseum and has operated in Oakland since 1906. The company melts down recycled scrap metal to make cast iron pipes and pipe fitting used in plumbing systems throughout the West Coast.
According to the attorney general’s lawsuit, the facility emits hexavalent chromium, a chemical which can cause lung and other forms of cancer. Ten schools are located within a mile of AB&I and 85% of nearby households live under the poverty line.
The nearby neighborhood “is adversely affected by pollution to a greater extent than 91% of the state,” according to the lawsuit. “Indeed, the community has more asthma-related emergency department visits than any other census tract in the state.”
AB&I and its operator, McWane, Inc., also face a similar suit filed in December by Richmond-based Communities for a Better Environment.
A third of the foundry’s workers live in East Oakland, according to the press release. The company said it is working to assist members interested in relocating to Texas and offering severance packages to eligible employees. Employers who are interested in recruiting the workers are asked to call the company hotline at 1-877-460-1645.
“This decision is especially difficult because of the impact to long-serving and hard-working team members and their families. We remain committed to working with our team members and community partners to help our 200 union workers either move with us or to secure new equally well-paying jobs locally,” Lowe said.