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After bosses axe health plan

Retirees camp outside aluminum plant

Published Feb 4, 2012 10:00 PM

Since Dec. 19, members of United Steelworkers Local 5668 and retirees of Century Aluminum have been holding an encampment outside the plant here in Ravenswood, W.Va., calling it “Occupy Century Aluminum.”

The company shut down in 2009 and sent out “health care termination” letters to the retirees. “The company basically told people they were going to steal every last thing they worked for,” stated Karen Gorrell, a spokesperson for Occupy Century Aluminum. “The notifications put so much stress on all of us, and as a result we lost a couple of our co-workers. So we decided to finally take action.”

The encampment has received a lot of support. Activists from various Occupy locations in the region have visited and made donations. Other labor unions have also expressed solidarity. On Jan. 25, United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard made an appearance and gave a speech where he called the Century Aluminum bosses “a bunch of rotten bastards for trying to take away people’s health care.”

Class struggle is nothing new for the members and retirees of USW Local 5668. This same local faced a historic two-year lockout by the then Ravenswood Aluminum Corp. in the early 1990s.

Gorrell added, “If we don’t fight back, the corporate bosses will literally try to work us to death. We the retirees will fight until we are in our graves, because we have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.” For more information, visit centuryaluminumretirees.com.

— Report and photo by Jeremy B.