Ormet workers’ health care coming to an end

CLARINGTON – Frank McCaslin and Pete Gray are among hundreds of laid off Ormet Corp. workers concerned about losing their health care coverage – and worried about what they are going to do if the aluminum plant never reopens.

Three weeks after Ormet President and CEO Mike Tanchuk announced the company would cease operations because of American Electric Power bills he said were too high, displaced workers are now losing their company-paid health care benefits. This angers McCaslin and Gray, who have served Ormet for 37 and 36 years, respectively.

“Where is (Gov. John) Kasich? There are a lot families hurting down here,” Gray said Thursday at the United Steelworkers’ hall in Clarington. “There is plenty of blame to go around, but why aren’t we getting more help? He talks about how he is a ‘jobs governor.’ We aren’t seeing it.”

Rob Nichols, press secretary for Kasich, said, “We are aware of it, and are exploring all possible options to help,” regarding the displaced employees losing their health care.

Emphasizing the company faced high electric bills coupled with low aluminum prices, Ormet filed for bankruptcy in February. The company later announced a planned $221 million sale to Minnesota-based Wayzata, but officials said this transaction required convincing the PUCO to allow Ormet to have lower AEP bills.

On Oct. 2, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio’s decided to lower Ormet’s AEP costs from $60 to $50 per megawatt-hour, rather than down to $45.89 per megawatt-hour as Ormet requested. Two days later, Tanchuk announced the company would cease all operations, leaving McCaslin, Gray and several hundred others wondering what the future holds.

Saying he did not believe he was cut out to be a “Wal-Mart greeter,” Gray said working in the heart of Ormet’s industrial site is the only job he really knows.

“Where are we supposed to go? What are we supposed to do?” he wondered.

“Really, my only option now is to retire. And even then, we are not sure what is going to happen with our insurance,” McCaslin added.

Kasich understands workers are angry about losing their jobs, Nichols said, and the administration is working to help displaced employees get back on their feet.