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‘We aren’t going anywhere’: Remaining employees of former Mylan vow to keep activism going after Saturday closure

MORGANTOWN — After several weeks of criticism from union leaders who accused him of standing idle while Morgantown’s former Mylan plant floundered, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has penned a letter asking for federal rescue.

Manchin, West Virginia’s senior senator on Capitol Hill, wrote the letter, dated Tuesday, to Jen Easterly, the director of the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

The senator is requesting that the plant, which was a global leader in the pharmaceuticals industry for decades, be designated officially as critical infrastructure – due to the pandemic.

After the steady, corporate attrition of its workforce through earlier buyouts, the plant is facing a final padlocking Saturday.

Viatris, its new parent company formed by a merger of Mylan and fellow pharmaceutical maker Upjohn, is shifting the bulk of the soon-to-be-former plant’s manufacturing operations to India and Australia.

In his two-page letter, Manchin discusses “unforeseen crises, like COVID-19,” and said the company’s role as a U.S.-based pharmaceuticals maker is more critical than ever.

“What has become clear is that our national security is inextricably tied to our ability to maintain secure supply chains and produce goods that our necessary to our way of life,” he wrote.

“When we outsource these supply chains and goods overseas, we make ourselves more vulnerable to national security threats and factors outside our control,” he continued.

“Make no mistake – that is exactly what will happen if we do not maintain these critical capabilities at the Morgantown facility.”

Meanwhile, Mylan continued its march into the past tense Wednesday, as remaining workers cleaned out their lockers and turned in their employee badges and parking passes to exit the doors one last time.

One of them is Joe Gouzd, a 22-year employee and president of United Steelworkers Local 8-957. Most of the nearly 1,500 left who will be ousted after Saturday are union members.

Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., the Mountain State’s other senatorial representative in Washington, filled a prescription of grief and angst for a once-proud organization, Gouzd said – by failing to do what they were elected to do.

Local dose of power?

Meanwhile, Capito issued a statement Wednesday afternoon, saying state officials might have the antidote after all.

“As Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Committee, I have been in communication with CISA to understand what they are able to do to support maintaining this facility,” she said.

“It is my understanding that CISA does not have the authority to designate individual companies as critical infrastructure or essential to COVID-19 response. However, I intend to request that the governor and state leaders, who have broader authority, do so under their existing authorities.”

Were Wednesday’s overtures equivalent to a hole in the hull of a lifeboat?

“I believe every day holds the possibility of a miracle,” Gouzd said.

The union president, who said he’s going to keep working to get things done, praised  lawmakers, grassroots groups, and his union brothers and sisters who have raised their voices for the cause.

He unlocked the door to his union office at 4:45 a.m. Wednesday, he said, and did a remote interview with New York City-based “Democracy Now!” later that morning.

Most of the day, he said that afternoon, was given over to helping employees – “We have maybe a handful left,” he said – with paperwork related to their severance and other separation details.

Saturday, he said, just means that everyone opens a whole new bottle of pills.

“We might be laid off, but we aren’t going anywhere,” Gouzd said.

“If we hadn’t continued to raise hell in the media, Joe Manchin never would have written that letter. Did he write it two months ago when he should have? No. But he wrote it.”

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