Mylan workers, supporters, call on Joe Manchin to save jobs at Mylan Plant

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Jun. 11—MORGANTOWN — Nearly 50 people gathered in a conference room at the Euro-Suites Thursday for a town hall to rally to keep jobs alive at the Mylan plant a few hundred yards up the road.

All four walls and the speaker's lectern with plastered with posters: "Off Shore No More, " "Mylan /Viatris Keep Making Generic Drugs Here !" and most prominently, one with a headshot of Sen. Joe Manchin above the sentence, "Manchin: Save Our Jobs !"

Much ire was directed at Viatris, the new pharmaceutical company that's closing the plant on July 31. But Manchin was also the subject of ire — and hope.

The room was filled with plant employees belonging to United Steelworkers Local 8-957, local teacher union members and local legislators.

A number of employees shared their stories, including Becky Friend, who worked her way worked her way up through various jobs and is now a truck driver.

"I'm not just here for me, " she said. "I've been at Mylan for 13 years and I really feel for these people that's been here 25, 30, 35 years." One has 47 years under his belt, she said.

"As far as Manchin is concerned, we've padded his pockets and padded his pockets, " she said. "Manchin has got to do something for us, he's got to." That was greeted with a chorus of "Step up, Joe, " from the crowd.

On Dec. 11, when Viatris announced the closure, she and her husband were heading to Florida, to a place they were hoping would be their retirement, she said.

"I cried all the way to Florida because I felt like they freakin' gut-punched me. I have over 600 hours in overtime just this year from working my ass off. Everybody else has too. All I can say is Manchin, you need to get off your ass. ... As far as Viatris, there is no Viatris. It's always going to be Mylan to me."

A group called Our Revolution — founded by Sen. Bernie Sanders to push for progressive political issues — co-hosted the town hall with USW Local 8-957, which represents about 850 of the 1, 431 employees who will lose their jobs.

Mike Oles, national field director of Our Revolution, joined USW members on their Tuesday trip to Charleston and has been in Morgantown since. He was among the many who targeted Manchin.

"The most powerful man in the United States right now is from West Virginia, " he said. "He can make or break trillion dollar deals. ... What we gotta do is put this on Joe Manchin's lap. This is his problem. It's West Virginia's problem. Let's make this about Joe Manchin."

Jim Justice is governor, Oles said, but he doesn't have the same amount of pull. "We want Sen. Joe Manchin to use his bully stick and bully Viatris and fight for us. This plant should not close."

Ryan Frankenberry, a familiar face at the state Capitol and state director for the West Virginia Working Families Party was at the Charleston rally and spoke Thursday night — also mostly about Manchin.

"This is the most bipartisan thing he can do, " Frankenberry said. He and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito could go to the White House and get President Joe Biden's attention. "That's the bipartisan win Joe Manchin needs so desperately."

Frankeberry said, "We need Joe, Joe and Joe [Gouzd, local 8-957 president, Manchin and Biden ] standing right over there and we need to save this plant, save 2, 000 jobs. ... This is an emergency, this is a crisis."

Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, was among the legislators to speak. Beach so-sponsored a Senate resolution to call on Justice to form a task force to find a solution to the closure, and brought to Justice a proposal to use $25 million of American Rescue Plan money as an incentive to keep Viatris here or find a new buyer.

Both houses of the Legislature unanimously passed identical resolutions. "The folks in Charleston want this to stay in place, " Beach said. Come July 31, "the switch is flipped and the economy here in Morgantown, Monongalia County, changes overnight."

Beach tapped on the picture of Manchin hanging on the lectern. "This guy right here can change everything. The ball is in his court. We can do a lot of things but the ball is in his court."

Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, didn't let Justice off the hook, though. He said Justice made some promises when he spoke with the union members on Tuesday.

"He made a commitment to you, " Hansen said. "Hold him to that. Talk to him, figure out what he is actually doing to follow up on your suggestions."

The Dominion Post asked Manchin for an update on his actions on behalf of the plant workers earlier this week and his office sent a statement from him: "This plant is a world-class facility and one of the largest oral solid dose manufacturing facilities in the world. I continue to engage in conversations with Viatris, the county, the Morgantown Area Partnership and the state to find a solution that protects every single job."

Tweet David Beard @dbeardtdp Email dbeard @dominionpost.com

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