EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSRETIREES WANT RESULTS
from Eyewitness News Online
Century Retirees Protest Outside Of Jackson County Plant
Reported by: Bethany Simmons
Web Producer: Bethany Simmons
Also Contributing: Kristin Keeling
Reported: Mar. 7, 2013 2:09 PM EST
Updated: Mar. 7, 2013 8:42 PM EST
Ravenswood , Jackson County , West Virginia
Protests are nothing new to Century Aluminum retirees. They picketed for 75 days straight last year outside the Ravenswood plant, and they were back again with very visible statements Thursday.
Retirees made a makeshift cemetery with crosses bearing the names of each Century retiree that has died since their promised life-time benefits were taken away in 2010.
Retiree Jim Weltner said he's thankful for the work that has been put in by state leaders, but they still do not have their benefits back. They have been told they could possibly be restored if the plant reopens, but this has been hindered by disputes with the Public Service Commission over a special power rate for the aluminum smelter.
Weltner said most of his pension money goes to paying his insurance. The retirees said they won't stop until progress is made.
Century Aluminum retirees were staging a 24-hour protest at the Jackson County plant Thursday, despite bitter temperatures in the area.
The retirees were rallying at the entrance of the Ravenswood plant. Some of the retirees told Eyewitness News that they just want the fate of their health care benefits resolved.
"Oh, it's been terrible," retiree Jim Weltner said. "My wife is already this month going in the doughnut hole on her medicine and she has pre-existing conditions, which makes her premium for her supplements extremely high."
Earlier this month, retirees thanked state legislators at the Capitol in Charleston.
Century Aluminum retirees showed up at the West Virginia Capitol Tuesday to say thanks to legislators.
The retirees and Century Aluminum and its retirees have battled for several years over health care benefits.
Three things had to happen before retirees could get their benefits back. Recently, Century reached an agreement with retirees and were in talks with the steel workers union, but their request for a special deal for lower electricity rates fell through.
But legislators stuck with the retirees. Last year, legislative action was voted on in the retirees' favor on the last day of the session. Lawmakers passed a bill last year that provided a tax break for the idled plant. The re-opening of the plant is vital to the restoring of retiree benefits.
Retirees said they didn't have a chance to show their gratitude until today.
Century said it will remain dedicated on reopening the plant, and it’s exploring all options on how to make that happen.
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