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Candidate visits with Eramet’s workers

By Diana DeCola,

DIANA DECOLA The Marietta Times

Congressman Sherrod Brown, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate, greets Dencil Brown, an Eramet worker, Saturday on the steelworkers union picket line in front of the plant.

Congressman Sherrod Brown, D-13th District, visited Eramet workers who say they have been locked out of the ferroalloys plant along Ohio 7 between Marietta and Belpre.

Brown, a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat held by Mike DeWine, was in town Saturday for a Democratic party rally in Reno that also included State Sen. Charlie Wilson, D-Bridgeport.

After the rally, he visited with several Eramet employees who told him they had been locked out since Aug. 29 but had been willing to work under their expired contract until a new one can be reached. The company says members of the steelworkers union are on strike.

Brown, who talked with workers for about an hour, asked questions such as how many workers had been locked out, how much new employees hired by the company were being paid, and how long the union workers had worked for the company.

"Anything I can do?" Brown asked the workers.

The workers expressed gratitude for Brown’s attention.

"It does a lot for us coming down here," said Dencil Brown, who lives in West Virginia. "We appreciate it. We need more people who want to work for the working class."

The Eramet worker added that he’d vote for the congressman if he could.

The Senate candidate expressed some views after talking with the union members.

"These are workers who want to work and the company has locked them out," he said. "I can't think of anything fairer than that for an employee to say they are willing to work under the existing contract while they negotiate."

Brown said the dispute not only hurts the employees and the company, but the whole community.

"This company needs to be talking to them," he said.

Two bargaining sessions since the work stoppage have failed to result in a new contract. Employee benefits remain main sticking points. Brown went on to say that this type of situation is common.

“We have a government that has turned its back on the people," he said. "(And) there is a trend going on around the state that companies are locking out their workers because they can."

Brown believes companies, especially foreign-owned companies such as Eramet which is based in France, can offer more to their own employees but they choose to instead squeeze their employees. His advice to the locked out employees Saturday was that they have a lot more friends than they know.

United Steelworkers Union Local 1-00639 President Jim Deem said the congressman hit everything on the head.

"I think we need more people who actually care about the American worker not the American companies," Deem said.

Charlie Cokeley, a locked out worker, said Brown's visit gave him hope.

"I think they (the company) have enough money that they think they are beyond our Congress," Cokeley said. "I think this will shed light that they (Congress) will be backing us."

During Brown's visit, the company hired an outside company to video record all the activity of the workers on the picket line.





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