CLARINGTON - An eager contingent of Ormet Corp. retirees, displaced workers and family members headed to Columbus on Wednesday to present 9,000 petition signatures to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, urging him to help get the closed aluminum smelter up and running again.
While they traveled, Tom Byers, president of United Steelworkers Local No. 5724 at Ormet, stayed behind at the office in Clarington and assembled a collection of toys and food in an effort to help the nearly 1,000 displaced workers and their families this holiday season.
Displaced workers are eligible for the food and toy drive, set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at the USW office.
"This isn't going to solve anyone's problems. And we know we are not the only people who are going to have it rough this year," Byers said. "Our guys would much rather work than take handouts. The worst part of it is that this can be done. You would help the economy by keeping these people working."
Union workers want Kasich to convince representatives of Ormet, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and American Electric Power to hold a conference in an effort to negotiate a power supply arrangement that will allow the bankrupt company's aluminum smelter in Hannibal to resume operations.
"These jobs support families and sustain communities, and Ohio desperately needs more of them, not fewer," USW District 1 Director David McCall said. "We simply cannot afford to allow AEP to drive Ormet out of business."
"We continue to work closely with Ormet management, the steelworkers and the local community to figure out how to get Ormet reopened and people back to work. We just met with the steelworkers recently and have had follow-up phone call conversations. It's always good to see them," said Rob Nichols, Kasich's press secretary.
Ormet CEO Mike Tanchuk announced the full shutdown of Ormet on Oct. 4, after the PUCO failed to lower Ormet's AEP costs from $60 to down to $45.89 per megawatt-hour as Ormet requested.
Following that announcement, AEP wanted to shut off all electricity to the Hannibal plant because of Ormet's inability to pay its bills, but the PUCO ordered AEP to keep the lights on during Ormet's Chapter 11 proceedings in U.S. District Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.
Since the shutdown, laid-off workers have rallied in an effort to convince Kasich to intervene, but Nichols said the governor has no direct authority over the PUCO.
Byers said some displaced employees continue to take advantage of the services offered by the Monroe County Job & Family Services office in Woodsfield, at which workers covered under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice can receive new job training.