CLARINGTON - As she picked up some cookies and crackers during the United Steelworkers' Local No. 5724 food and toy drive Monday, New Martinsville resident Rachel Brown acknowledged the situation at the shuttered Ormet Corp. plant is looking bleak.
Brown, wife of displaced 21-year Ormet employee Tim Brown, joined about 350 other laid off workers and their families during the USW's food and toy drive, organized to help support families this holiday season. The bankrupt aluminum-maker's Hannibal plant closed in October amid high American Electric Power bills and low metal prices.
"At first, I was hopeful the plant would restart. It does not look so good now," she said, as she looked through the dry goods. "If it does not restart, we will probably have to relocate."
Photo by Casey Junkins
New Martinsville resident Rachel Brown, wife of displaced 21-year Ormet employee Tim Brown, and her daughter, Julia Lilze, pick up some dry goods during the Monday food and toy drive.
Ormet CEO Mike Tanchuk announced the full shutdown of Ormet Oct. 4, after the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio failed to lower Ormet's AEP costs from $60 to down to $45.89 per megawatt-hour as Ormet requested. This shutdown has left about 1,000 families facing an uncertain future this holiday season.
"I just don't know what is going to happen," said 35-year employee Paul Fetty of Sardis, speaking while his 3-year-old grandson, Bailey Fetty, sat on the lap of Santa Claus to wish for a merry Christmas.
"Unemployment is a real headache," Paul Fetty added.
Last week, Ormet retirees, displaced workers and family members went to Columbus to present Ohio Gov. John Kasich with 9,000 petition signatures, urging him to do something to help get the once roaring smelter plant running again. In the holiday spirit, 22-year employee Brian Marmie joined others in signing one of the Christmas cards on site set for delivery to Kasich.
Tom Byers, president of USW No. 5724 at Ormet, thanked the United Way, Riesbeck's Food Market and the Kroger Co. for helping to provide about 9,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables, as well as a variety of dry food goods, for the workers. He said about 70 children spoke with Santa Claus on Monday, with several more set to give him their Christmas lists today.
Workers who did not participate Monday are eligible for the second day of the food and toy drive, set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the USW office in Clarington.
Also Monday, U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, showed up to address steelworkers. He said he is trying to arrange a meeting between Kasich and West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, as well as Ormet and AEP officials, to see if there is anything that can be done to save the plant.
"I will continue working with anyone to try and find solutions to this difficult situation - and to find help for displaced workers and their families," Johnson said. "My ultimate goal is to see that the people who depend on Ormet have jobs."
Johnson's likely Democratic challenger in the midterm election next year is former Ohio House member Jennifer Garrison of Marietta.
"The steelworkers know that I always have and always will stand with them, and I pray that all of the parties involved will come together and find a way to put these hardworking men and women back to work and soon," she said.