Guest Essays, Letters to the Editor, Opinion

Profit put ahead of people

by Joseph Gouzd

Notice was given on Dec. 11, 2020. Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito didn’t respond until July 2021. On Dec. 11, 2020, Viatris, a global pharmaceutical manufacturing powerhouse gave notice to more than 1,500 people that their lives were to be uprooted in favor of corporate profits by closing Viatris’ Morgantown generics facility  July 31.

The United Steelworkers Local 8-957 held virtual “fly-ins” for several U.S. Senate offices, senators and aides over a two-day period to unfold the plight created by the Viatris announcement. Manchin gave two minutes of his time, opening with a question, “Are you still making penicillin at that plant?” (We hadn’t been making it for years.)

Capito’s aide stated, “We find nothing alarming by their corporate decision. Companies move out of the country every day.”

Rep. David McKinley wanted to know, “What have your W.Va. U.S. senators said?”

The federal leadership representing our people in this state went eerily quiet for months, until one week before the closing date.

Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, 51st District, wrote to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency on our behalf. Steadfast people-supporter Delegate Danielle Walker has been with our people since day one.

We’ve poured out emotions and made endless efforts to get federal and state leadership to join our cause. The result has been a huge disappointment and letdown by those elected by their constituents to influential positions.

Now, the plant sits idle. And now, the Blacksville mine is closing, putting another 180 people out of work. Manchin, Capito and McKinley have dropped an ax blade on north-central West Virginia — taking no action to forestall the disaster announced last December.

If they are working on something day to day, as they claim, why don’t they reveal at least something?

We keep hearing that no one is interested in taking over the plant. How can no one be interested in a plant this size, with this capability and a trained, experienced workforce ready to keep working?

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed why we need a quality, domestic pharmaceutical supply. But here are jobs and manufacturing heading overseas.

The working-class people of West Virginia are once again on the losing side because of political leadership that supposedly represents our state. Those politicians come promising time and time again to “do something different” but we see the results of their promises.

Nothing has improved and our economic outlook continues to worsen under their reelected leadership.

When will West Virginians awaken and realize that “expected change” from politicians isn’t happening favorably for West Virginians?

Joseph Gouzd is the president of  United Steelworkers Local 8-957 in Morgantown.