Just short of 1,000 Hannibal, Ohio Steelworkers at Local 5724 have fought for justice and dignity at Ormet many times over the years, including an unfair labor practice strike in 2004 that ended with the company in bankruptcy court.
Far from clashing with Ormet management, however, workers now face a different kind of struggle – to save their jobs, the company and the community.
About 500 Ohio Valley Steelworkers, salaried managers, business owners and concerned citizens rallied at the Ormet Picnic Pavillion on Saturday, Aug. 17, to take a stand against American Electric Power’s (AEP) greed and to ask the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to do the right thing and lower Ormet’s energy costs to keep the aluminum smelter operating.
“In this fight we are just pawns in their chess game that we have no control over,” said Neal Cannon, a 19 year union member from the rod room, “but at last we have management that works with the union now in this battle.”
With 34 years at Ormet, Local 5724 President Tom Byers says the effects of the smelter closing will reach far beyond the 1,000 steelworkers who could lose their jobs.
“This situation is directly tied to everything in this community,” he said.
The school district is one of the largest in the area and already one of the poorest. Switzerland of Ohio School District Treasurer Lance Irwin discussed how Ormet cutbacks have caused the district to lay off 20% of its staff due to a reduction in tax revenue and lead the district to seek additional funds by placing a levy on the ballot in November.
About 20 retirees and their wives gathered under a tree at the rally.
Starting in 1957 Jim McCulley spent 36 years at Ormet and takes great pride in the fact that when he worked there, they did everything by hand.
“It was hot, hard work; we carried everything on our shoulders,” he said. “Look how far we’ve come.”
His wife Carol speaks up.
“I don’t want to have to move in with my grown kids,” she said. “Grandpa and Grandma are supposed to be able to buy presents, but if we lose our health insurance, we won’t have a choice.”
One thing is very clear – from schoolchildren to retirees, every individual in this community will be hurt if Ormet shuts down.
Steelworkers, Ormet management, local business owners and the public are all united in solidarity to save what they have all worked so hard to build in these communities.
You can join the fight by signing the USW petition calling on the PUCO to intervene to prevent AEP from pulling the plug on the Ohio Valley’s future. Please sign here.