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Ravenswood Workers Rally At The Capitol

March 4, 2009

Charleston, WV – Stranded retirees and unemployed workers from the Century Aluminum plant in Ravenswood will join a union rally at the State Capitol just after noon today, with Governor Joe Manchin and state lawmakers expected to be on hand.

Last month, 650 employees of the plant lost their jobs when it closed because of low aluminum prices; the closure also meant many retirees lost their pensions. Sherry Breeden, political director and mobilizer for the West Virginia AFL-CIO, which is coordinating the rally, says a crowd of former Ravenswood workers will join with lawmakers for a rally in the Capitol rotunda to put a face on disappearing jobs.

"They will come in a couple of buses and cars and they will caravan to our state Capitol. They will circle the Capitol, and then they will join for a rally to bring attention to all the lost jobs across our state."

Breeden says one proposal to be highlighted at the rally is a resolution now before the legislature in favor of buying American.

Larry Matheney, state AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer, says good-paying union jobs like the ones lost at Ravenswood are good for the economy. He calls them the foundation of the middle class.

"We've got to start manufacturing goods in this country, and we've got to employ people who earn wages that allow them to purchase the goods that we produce."

Matheney says one thing that would be good for the economy would be to make it easier for workers to form unions. He says the Employee Free Choice Act before Congress would do that, not by taking away the secret ballot, but by letting employees choose whether they want a secret ballot or a voluntary sign-up system.

"All the Employee Free Choice Act does is shift that decision to the employee."

Right now, that decision is made by the employer, he says. He expects the act to be debated in Congress as soon as next week.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV