For WebCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A representative for retirees of Century Aluminum said Thursday the company's disagreement with a proposed special electricity rate, which will keep the aluminum plant closed for now, felt like a "knock out" punch.
Karen Gorrell, the wife of a Century retiree, said that several lawmakers and the Public Service Commission members -- who proposed the special electricity rate last week -- have worked "overtime" to make it possible for Century to restart its aluminum plant, which was shuttered in 2009.
"Even though nothing Century would do should shock us, we must say that we were totally caught off guard ..." Gorrell wrote in an email. "They have dangled health-care benefits and restoration of lost jobs in front of the retirees and the state like a piece of meat -- just beyond our reach."
The PSC ruled last week that Century may have a special rate for electricity, as the company had requested, but the PSC said any risk that the company won't pay enough for its power must be assumed by the company, not other Appalachian Power customers.
A Century spokeswoman said this week that the PSC's ruling is not sufficient to restart the smelter.
"Shame on Century Aluminum. Maybe we should encourage them to sell the facility to someone that truly wants to run it, and to an owner that would recognize a helping hand when it is extended," Gorrell wrote. "We are devastated but not defeated. We will never give up the fight to have our benefits reinstated."
Gorrell noted that manufacturing jobs that offer a living wage and good benefits are becoming scarcer. She said, "we were all very sincere in our hopes of bringing those jobs back to Jackson County.
"Accomplishing this task would have meant prosperity well beyond the retirees and the laid off workers, as has been established in the past," Gorrell wrote. "The retirees feel that our state, our [governor], our [Legislature], our senators, the commissioners at the PSC, the retirees and many others have worked overtime to bring this together and make it possible for Century to restart this plant and remain competitive for the long haul.
"It is impossible to reason why Century would turn their backs on all who have worked so tremendously hard to help them," she said.