Berkeley police officers arrested a man and woman Monday morning after catching them stripping copper wire at Pacific Steel Casting, authorities report.
The Speyside Fund and Speyside Equity, among others, should return the $14.5 million it took in distributions so the money can go to pay worker pension funds and other debts, a legal filing contends.
Dozens gathered to discuss what should be done with the 8.3-acre site near Second Street. Most said it must be preserved for manufacturing uses to keep Berkeley a diverse place in which to live.
The equity firm that bought the company in 2014 only put $2.5 million of its own funds into the business, but took out $11.25 million in distributions, according to Pacific Steel Casting’s vice-president of finance.
The 84-year old company said as early as 2017 that it had to shut down because of financial issues. It repaid the equity firm that bought it $3.8M in 2018, but none of the workers got severance pay.
The company did reach a settlement to pay off hundreds of thousands of dollars it owed to workers’ health and pension funds.
The land is zoned for manufacturing and the city wants to hear ideas about how to convert it from heavy industrial use. That will also make it easier to sell.
The closure of the city’s last big “smokestack” factory means the end of well-paid union jobs. But it also means neighbors will no longer be bothered by a ‘burnt pot handle’ smell.
Business has picked up at the 83-year-old company, one of Berkeley’s last remaining heavy industrial plants.
The union representing the workers at Pacific Steel Casting, which is closing after 83 years in business, says the company is late on pension and health payments.
The company has been operating in West Berkeley since 1934 and once employed more than 400 people.
The facility emits “tens of tons of harmful air pollutants each year, including sulphur oxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter, commonly known as soot.”