Morgantown Mylan plant workers share their stories of uncertainty as plant closure looms

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Jun. 6—THIS IS THE FIRST story in a three-part series. Subsequent stories will appear in Wednesday's and Friday's editions.

MORGANTOWN — Employees at the Viatris Morgantown Mylan plant are staring into a pit of uncertainty at the July 31 plant closure looms.

A number of United Steelworkers Local 8-957 workers shared with The Dominion Post their stories about how that uncertainty is affecting them. Today we hear from Dawn Golden and Chad McCormick.

The recently issued Viatris WARN notice says 1, 431 employees will be laid off or separated. The initial July 31 separation will involve 482 non-union workers and 764 union workers—a total of 1, 246—leaving 185. Further separations are expected Aug. 31, Oct. 31, Dec. 31 and next March 31.

Dawn Golden Golden has been with Mylan for 23 years. "I'm still with Mylan. I don't consider myself working for Viatris."

She's married ; her husband was injured some years ago and no longer works. She has and adult daughter who's married and has two kids ; her son-in-law also works at the plant.

To explain how she feels now, she looked back to 2005, when she the lower part of a leg in a motorcycle accident.

When she awoke and realized what had happened, she said, ""I didn't cry." People were amazed. But she knew the Mylan culture. It was a family. "Until you go through something like this you don't know what it's about."

She knew she was going to walk again. And her supervisor came to the hospital, she said, and told her that her job was waiting. "That was Mylan. Now we have Viatris. ...We as a union are sitting there, still waiting on what our severance is going to be.

"You're talking about men and women who have worked in that powder and breathed that powder and worked in that raw material, and that doesn't mean anything to them ? It's because of these people that they have what they have. ... It's sad that they don't respect us the way that we respected our company. We gave them everything. We bled blue."

Golden can live and work on $12 an hour, a fraction of her current pay, but health insurance is a big factor in what she decides to d, she said. Insurance may run her $800 a month. Will she return to her side job as a hairdresser ? What will she give up ?

Back in 2005, "I never went into that dark hole." Now, "This is really causing problems for a lot of people."

Golden is one of many who said the company culture, the family atmosphere, changed when Mylan founder Milan Puskar retired as board chairman in 2009. Puskar was there in the building, He was hands-on.

She recalls that she faced a few red tape hurdles when she went to return to work after her accident.

"It was Mike who made the phone call and said, 'Hey, this little girl wants to come back to work. You find her a place.' He said, 'I walk these halls all the time. I know there's jobs here for her.."

The next day she got the return-to-work call. "Mike was all about, if he made money, everybody right down to the janitor made money. When Mike left, that when with him."

At one time, she said, Mylan was top generic company in the U.S. "We were the mother ship. We enabled them to build all of what they've built in other countries." And now Viatris is closing the plant.

She recalls that on the day Mylan became Viatris, employees were watching what was going on at other plants around the world on big-screen TV's.

"They were all celebrating. They had cake and were releasing balloons outside. As we're sitting there watching, going, 'Where's our balloons ? Where's our cupcakes. ... Now we all know why we didn't get cupcakes, why we didn't get balloons. Because we were closing. ... I'm just disappointed, Very disappointed."

Golden is 59, too young to retire, she said. But she's not looking at leaving. She hopes her daughter and her husband stay, too. But that will depend on what job he finds.

"God's got this. He closes one door, they say he opens another. I've given a lot to God before. He's got this to take care of as well."

Chad McCormick Along with working for just over 20 years at the plant, McCormick is recording secretary for USW Local 8-957.

The news of the plant closure was a surprise, he said. He had a weird feeling the night before the December closure announcement, when people were sent home. And they had been seeing fewer doses going out the door, less work at the plant.

"We were probably expecting bad news in the form of a layoff, but as far as a plant shutdown, that was a complete surprise."

Severance package talks with the USW are currently stalled. The quality of the severance will directly affect employees' opportunities, McCormick said. A longer severance package will allow more time to get educated, retrooled, reschooled. A shorter severance will force them to return to work faster.

For himself, "It's going to be really hard to take a $35 an hour job and lose it and replace it in the area." He expects to make half that or less.

McCormick is a high school graduate exploring his education options. Burger flipping isn't a great option.

"My whole adult life has been at Mylan Pharmaceuticals. I assumed that when I started at Mylan at 22 years of age that those days were over, that this was my career: I'm going to get paid a good, quality wage to do a good, quality job of high responsibility."

He worked his way up to day shift, and was approaching five weeks of vacation. "I'm where I want to be in life. I'm in my happy placed I guess you could say. Now that's being yanked out from underneath of me. I don't know what I'm going to do."

He knows he won't move, he said. His family and his wife's family are both from here. His wife works, so they're not facing a total loss of income, but a severe reduction.

"There's going to be some lifestyle changes. It's going to affect the recreational activities we do as a family. It's going to affect our travel. We're obviously going to be able to eat and survive."

Like Golden, he reflected on Puskar's values and legacy, and what Viatris has decided to do.

"I'm very upset that these jobs are going overseas, " he said, where looser regulations and lower wages will help maximize profits.

"The sick to my stomach part comes from not knowing what I'm doing next."

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