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U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan meets with United Steelworkers

Congressman stops in Marietta to hear concerns

Greg Herrick (left) and Trevor Scott (right) and others from plants around southeast Ohio met with U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) Tuesday in Marietta. (Photo by Michele Newbanks)

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan stopped in Marietta on Tuesday afternoon to meet with members of the United Steelworkers to listen to their concerns.

“Things are good. Companies are raking it in with both hands. Pricing is up and demands are up,” said John Saunders, United Steelworkers staff representative. “These are some of the best paying jobs in the region.”

Still, those attending said there are concerns that seemed to be across the board for all companies.

Greg Herrick, of Timet in Toronto and a member of USW Local 5644, said they are having trouble finding qualified electrical engineers. They need people with electrical and mechanical training.

“People are pushed to go to college and we need to get mills up and running,” he told Ryan, D-Ohio.

The training they are receiving isn’t good enough, he added.

“Schooling isn’t up to par at some community colleges,” he said.

Energizer Battery chemical operator Kevin Vincent said they are having the same issue.

“We need to hire mechanics and electricians,” he said. “We struggle to find people qualified.”

He also said that people aren’t being taught what is needed in the workforce.

Energizer employee Troy Wolfe said the area has been stagnant for so long, people have gotten away from learning what is needed.

Local 14200 President Greg May of Solvay echoed the sentiments, saying they are having a “terrible time” finding qualified craftspeople.

Another concern was with retiree healthcare. Saunders said he’d like to see better healthcare monitoring at plants using hazardous materials.

“Healthcare costs are killing us,” he said. “Specialty drugs are taking up 80 to 90 percent of the premium.”

May said their employees are worried about job security and doing the right thing “when we play by different rules” than they do in other countries. Standards may not be the same in other countries and regulations may not be as strict.

He said they’ve had to deal with material shortages and they want to see stability in the markets as most of those of retirement age depend on their 401(k).

Dale Schofield of AmSty said the rising costs of materials and the increase in gas has created concerns with the logistics in moving the pellets made at the plant. A worker shortage has also hit AmSty.

“The overtime loads are incredible,” he said. “The company doesn’t want to hire.”

Ryan asked if there was forced overtime, to which Schofield said yes.

Ryan, the Democratic nominee for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat on the November ballot, said his grandfather and great-grandfather were both steelworkers, so he understands the struggle.

“I’m going to go to the mat for my folks,” he said. “Like the kids I grew up with and the guys I grew up with.”

Ryan said people have asked him what his plans are.

“We gotta manufacture. If you’re not making stuff, the economy doesn’t work,” he said. “To me, if you’re going to build stuff, you’ve gotta have infrastructure, which is why the infrastructure bill was so important.”

Ryan and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, put a “buy American” provision in the bill, he said.

“American steel, American concrete and American products,” he explained.

Ryan spoke openly with the meeting participants, occasionally using colorful language to make a point.

He said Ohio has led the way from the Industrial Age, as steel came from Youngstown, tires came from Akron, and glass came from Toledo.

“You want to go to the moon? Where do the astronauts come from? Ohio,” he said. “Where are the companies at? In Ohio. We build stuff. We serve. We try to help.”

Earlier in the day, Ryan stopped in Hannibal to tour facilities before visiting Marietta.

“I’m just out here to meet you. Let you see me. What you see is what you get,” he said.

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