HUNTINGTON PARK — The Steelworkers Oldtimers Foundation has received a last-minute reprieve from an eviction order to vacate the union hall it has occupied for four years.
The food bank--which hands out from 7,000 to 10,000 bags of groceries a month to former steelworkers, needy people, unions and other food pantries--was given an additional 30 days to relocate.
The food bank was notified in May by the building's owner, United Steelworkers of America, to vacate the Maywood Avenue building by the end of July because it was being sold.
However, escrow has not closed and the national union decided to give the food bank until the end of August to move, said Robert Guadiana, regional director of the union.
Hang-Up in Escrow
"There was a hang-up in escrow," said Guadiana, who noted that the building is being sold for slightly more than $100,000. "We were fortunate in convincing the new owners to at least give (the food bank) additional time."
He said he could not identify the buyer until after the sale is final. Guadiana, who oversees union operations in four states, including California, dismissed reports that the building was being sold to a steelworkers union local in Maywood.
Wesley Guajardo, president of Local 1981 in Maywood, refused to comment, saying, "I don't want to discuss the issue. . . ."
The national union's decision to sell the building occupied by the food pantry came about because it has no further use for the union hall, Guadiana said. The hall was formerly occupied by Local 1845, which is now defunct. Former union members used to work at the Bethlehem Steel plant in Vernon before it closed in December, 1982.
"What do you do with a big, vacant building?" Guadiana said. "The union is not in the habit of collecting buildings."
The food bank, one of the largest in the Southeast area, is run with federal and county grants as well as donations from supporters such as rock star Bruce Springsteen. In addition to giving away food, the foundation provides counseling and holds a monthly workshop that teaches routine tasks such as keeping a checkbook and filling out welfare forms.
A 'Good Sign'
Denece Adams, the foundation's office manager, called the extension a "good sign" and said the extra time will be used to try and negotiate a way to remain in the building.
"The union made a nice gesture," Adams said.
George Cole, director of the food bank and a former steelworker, said he has come up empty-handed in preliminary searches for a new site. Most of the facilities are either too small or more than double the foundation's $1,200 monthly rent.
Cole said petitions asking the Steelworkers of America to reconsider its decision are now being circulated and will be presented to the union by the end of the month. About 2,000 signatures have already been collected.
"We're hopeful. Maybe they can work with us on something," Cole said.