Pages tagged "Economic Development News"
Charleston Gazette-Mail - Jason Miller has six months left on the job he got 20 years ago. Read
Five others, two hourly employees and three supervisors, will continue to work with him at the Century Aluminum plant in Ravenswood. The plant was idled February 2009, when Century laid off more than 650 employees. Last week, Century officials announced the plant would not reopen — a move that many in the community expected, but one that still hit some of them hard.
"We knew it was coming," Miller said. "We just didn't know when. The company didn't even tell us. We found out about it on the news and over the social media. Nobody from the company even came to talk to us."
Miller, an electrician, makes sure no power line problems damage the large plant, opened by Kaiser Aluminum in 1957. He'll do that for the next several months, and that'll be it.
He's also financial secretary and a former local president for the United Steelworkers of America Local 5668 in Ravenswood.
"MacDonald's and Wal-Mart are not going to carry everybody. We have to get manufacturing jobs back," Miller said. "The steel industry has done left. And right around the corner, it looks like aluminum will be gone."
New York Times - “Miners Bracing for a Future of Ever-Dwindling Demand for Coal” (front page, July 18), about the struggles of coal miners, captured a vivid picture of Appalachian coal communities suffering from the industry’s collapse. Read
We must not forget that these communities fueled our expansion westward, energized the Industrial Revolution and powered our victory in two world wars. They deserve our respect and gratitude in their time of need.
These communities have suffered from painful boom-and-bust cycles, lost friends and family from the hazards of mining, and have seen Appalachia remain one of the poorest communities in America.
While we can’t undo the past, we can build a brighter future that honors their sacrifices and hard work. That’s why Congress must act swiftly by supporting the proposed Power Plus plan, which invests in economic diversification initiatives that help retool workers for emerging opportunities, while shoring up funding for the health and retirement benefits workers have earned.
After all that they’ve given us, we mustn’t leave coal communities behind.
The Hill Blog - For more than a century, Appalachian coal communities have given more to the American dream and received less in return than any other region of our country. They’ve fueled our expansion westward, driven the industrial revolution, and powered our way to victory in two World Wars. At the same time, Appalachians have suffered from painful boom and bust cycles, risked their lives on a daily basis, and live in an area that remains one of the poorest regions in our nation. Read
While we can’t undo the past, we can build a brighter future that honors the sacrifices and hard work of Appalachian coal mining communities by ensuring everyone prospers from a growing America and cleaner energy. That’s why senators and House members representing Appalachian areas must strongly push for investments to help coal communities diversify their economies in the 2016 federal budget.
Historically, Appalachia and its residents have relied heavily on the coal mining industry whose operations are now fading. While debates will continue on the exact cause of coal’s decline in the region – declining coal reserves and productivity, competition from cheap natural gas and western coal, and public demand for clean energy - this should not hold us back from making the critical investments necessary to propel Appalachia forward.
Appalachian coal communities are ripe for regeneration. People across the region are moving forward on a variety of initiatives, but often lack the capital necessary to take them to scale. Federal investments in things like small business development, education and job training, and sustainable forestry would bring new opportunities to hard hit areas of the region that have been struggling for decades to diversify their economies. Funding for these economic development programs could come in part from Abandoned Mine Land reclamation funds, which has a balance today of $2.5 billion.
We must also put more effort into protecting the legacy of those miners who have already given decades to the coal industry by protecting their pensions and healthcare benefits. Ensuring that coal miners and their families can enter retirement with financial dignity should be at the top of the priority list for the members of Congress that frequently speak on the need to stand with coal workers. And in a true showing of good faith, we’ve seen some members make real efforts toward that end.
Reps. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) in the House, for example, recently cosponsored a bipartisan bill aimed at assisting displaced coal miners with retraining programs that can help in their transition to new opportunities. The McKinley-Welch bill would not only help young, healthy miners compete in their changing economic landscapes, but would also give a lifeline to workers that have spent decades working for the coal industry that have families to support and retirement to save toward. On the Senate side, there is also the much-lauded bipartisan legislation from Sens. Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), which goes even further in helping coal workers and their families by funding pension health benefits to retired miners.
These members aren’t doing anything new, federal policies to support economic transitions have been happening for decades. There is a long history of federal investments to help support workers and communities adjust to transition - including transition assistance for railroad workers, tobacco farmers, communities dependent on military bases that had to be closed, and timber harvesting regions in the Pacific Northwest.
In light of this history, the urgency to spur economic diversification and help regenerate the West Virginia coalfields could not be greater. In my state of West Virginia, the impact of coal’s decline is leading to thousands of job losses, falling state and local revenues, and more communities in distress. We now have the highest unemployment rate in the nation and are the leading nation in population loss.
This is why we need the continued support of our Congress - especially the delegation from the Appalachian region, including Sens. Manchin, Capito, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), as well as influential congressmen like Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) - to put strong transition plans to work in order to help revitalize our communities. While there is no silver bullet to solving our problems, investments that provide a foundation for future economic success while respecting the legacy, and the pensions, of workers across the region are a vital step forward.
Clarksburg Exponent-Telegram - Central Appalachian coal production is projected to decline with or without the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to limit greenhouse gas emissions from the nation's power plants. Read
That's according to an analysis conducted by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
"Even in our reference case, we have Central Appalachian coal falling. The portion of coal that goes to the electric sector — it's really falling by quite a lot, even in the reference case," said Diane Kearney, an operations research analyst with the EIA's Office of Electricity, Coal, Nuclear and Renewables Analysis. "Of course, with the Clean Power Plan, there is an incremental hit. However, because it's already sort of falling off, and it's already falling off in the power sector, that increment doesn't look as significant."
Charleston Gazette - Hundreds more West Virginia miners were told Friday that they were being laid off, in the latest blow to the already deeply troubled Appalachian coal industry. Read
Alpha Natural Resources issued a statement announcing the "expected idling" of subsidiary Rockspring Development's Camp Creek underground mine and processing plant in Wayne County and had given layoff notices to 439 employees at that operation. Alpha cited its "current assessment of market conditions."
Meanwhile, Murray Energy was expected to issue a statement late this afternoon regarding layoffs at operations in West Virginia and Ohio. Some media reports indicated as many as 1,800 workers could be affected.
Wall Street Journal, Nasdaq - Coal miner Murray Energy Corp. on Friday said it would lay off as many as 1,829 workers at mines in Illinois, Ohio and West Virginia. Read
The shedding of over 20% of the workforce at the nation's third biggest coal miner deals another harsh blow to the industry that is still central to the Appalachian economy.
The St. Clairsville, Ohio-based company blamed increased use of natural gas, taxes and what it called "the continuing destruction of the United States coal industry by President Barack Obama."
The planned layoffs were first reported Thursday by The Wall Street Journal.
Beckley Register-Herald - Years of declining efficiency in the coal industry could end soon, especially in the U.S. where both surface and underground mines located in the country's top producing regions have witnessed increased productivity over the last couple years, a recent study shows. Read
SNL Energy, a financial website, found coal miners' productivity — a measure of the clean tons of coal a mine produces per employee hour — has increased even in the Central Appalachian basin, where most of the U.S. coal is produced, despite a decrease in production.
In the Central Appalachian basin, the average underground miner produced 1.37 tons of coal per hour in the last quarter, ending March 31, the report found. Miners working in the Illinois base produced about 4.51 tons of coal per man-hour. In Central Appalachia's surface mines, miners produced coal at a rate of 3.32 million tons per man-hour, significantly lower than the 30.16 ton of coal per-man hour in the Powder River Basin, the report found.
The report states the Central Appalachian good numbers could be short term.
"My guess would be that the increase in productivity is loosely tied to the economic recovery and stronger growth of the economy in 2014," Ted Boettner, director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, was quoted in the report. "Perhaps, demand rose while employment has stagnated and they haven't retired workers."
The State Journal - As southern Appalachia's coal fields continue to shrink with the industry's gradual decline, West Virginia is struggling to keep the state's workforce balanced. Read
One study, authored by Drew Haerer, a research analyst with Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment, and Lincoln Pratson, a professor of Earth and ocean sciences with the school, found that as the coal-fired electricity shrinks, coalfields employment is following suit.
While that's no secret for heavy coal producers like West Virginia, the controversy lies within the fact that natural gas, wind and solar sector jobs have been increasing, but they haven't been replacing the lost jobs in the coalfields region.
Charleston Gazette - West Virginia is losing population faster than any other state in the country, according to newly released U.S. Census figures. Read
West Virginia lost nearly 3,300 residents last year, the Census Bureau said. That amounts to about 0.2 percent of the Mountain State's 2013 population.
While that might not sound like a lot, it's the largest drop, accounting for population, of any state in the nation.
Only five other states — Vermont, New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut and Alaska — lost population last year, according to the Census, which estimated changes between July 1, 2013, and July 1, 2014. Illinois lost about three times as many people as West Virginia, but its population is seven times larger, so it is losing people at a much slower rate.
Huntington Herald-Dispatch - The new Republican Legislature is looking to end free bargaining in West Virginia by adopting a so-called "right-to-work" (RTW) law that aims to cut wages and benefits for the state's working families. Read
This is the last thing West Virginia needs. The state already has the highest share of low-wage jobs in the country and efforts to make this worse should be stopped.
The principle aim of RTW laws is to diminish the ability of workers to collectively bargain freely without the interference of government. This is precisely why Milton Friedman, the godfather of "free market economics," adamantly opposed RTW laws.
Under RTW, it would be illegal for a union and a business to freely enter into a contract that requires every employee to pay for the benefits they are receiving under the agreement. This means that if a worker who does not pay a union representation fee is fired, the law requires that the union represent that worker through an appeals process. Non-dues paying workers would also receive other substantial benefits like workplace protections and higher wages and benefits.
While proponents of RTW say this will create "workplace freedom" and often tout their admiration for the "free market," this is a prime example of government intervention in the market distributing money upwards. RTW laws have nothing to do with forcing people to join a union or contribute to political causes they don't support - that's already illegal under federal law. The only freedom workers would receive is the ability to get something for nothing.
The requirement to pay a representation fee as a condition of employment is nothing unique to collective bargaining agreements. For example, if an attorney wants to appear in court in West Virginia, he or she has to pay dues to the West Virginia Bar Association. Or if you want to work for United Parcel Service (UPS), a condition of your employment is to wear a brown uniform. No one is talking about banning employers from these practices.
A case in Kentucky further illustrates this "free-rider" problem with RTW laws. Several years ago, the local Building Trades Council in Owensburg, Kentucky, asked the local Chamber of Commerce if it could withdraw its membership and still receive all of the benefits. The Chamber responded by stating: "It would be against Chamber by-laws and policy to consider any organization or business a member without dues being paid. The vast majority of the Chamber's annual revenues come from member dues, and it would be unfair to the other 850-plus members to allow an organization not paying dues to be included in member benefits."
What tends to happen in RTW states is that non-union members who get a "free ride" - while receiving all of the benefits contained in the collective bargaining agreement - opt out of becoming union members. This result is less money through dues and a weaker union, which ultimately strengthens the employers' hand in bargaining for lower pay and benefits.
The one thing proponents and opponents of RTW laws agree on is that these laws are intended to lower wages and benefits, decrease unionization, while aiming to encourage outside investment in the state. While this might make West Virginia a cheap place to do business, it doesn't make it a good place to do business if there is less consumer demand in the local economy and additional need for public assistance.
If you go back through the state's history, wages have steadily declined along with union membership. In the 1970s, when over a third of the state's workers belonged to a union, wages were higher than the national average and income inequality was much lower. As unions have declined, real wages for most workers have declined or stagnated, and the share of workers with pensions and health care benefits has eroded.
Instead of using the power of the state to reduce the power and income of workers, policymakers should be focusing on moving more people into the middle class. This could include enacting better workplace protections, such as paid family leave, work sharing, and flexible work schedules, and more targeted investments in higher education, workforce training, early childhood development, broadband, research and development, and transportation.
As President John F. Kennedy said, "Our labor unions are not narrow, self-seeking groups. They have raised wages, shortened hours, and provided supplemental benefits. Through collective bargaining and grievance procedures, they have brought justice and democracy to the shop floor."