Recovery walk highlighted small towns plight

BYESVILLE, Ohio -- It may be the day after Halloween, but Byesville still resembles a ghost town. Yet, this is exactly what prompted a visit from Joe Rugola, president of the Ohio AFL-CIO.

Rugola is wrapping up his “Road To Economic Recovery” tour of the state in which he has walked about 270 miles so far over the past month, protesting the closing of factories and rallying support for the election of Barack Obama for president. His tour ended Nov. 3 in Columbus as he hopes the publicity he generates will draw attention to the plight of Ohio workers who have suffered greatly under Bush rule.

Over 180,000 jobs have been lost in Ohio since Bush has taken office, and Byesville has certainly been hit hard. This small village in southeastern Ohio, with a population of about 2,500, has recently lost its biggest employer. In June, the local Plastech plant officially closed its doors, causing much distress for the 450 workers employed there and for the community at large.

Plastech, which produced bumpers and other plastic exterior parts for the auto industry, was also the third largest employer in the county, leaving village and local officials at a loss to address the problems created by the closing. According to Byesville Mayor Don Gadd, the plant accounted for about 26 percent of village tax collections. Reacting to such a loss will no doubt be complicated, and will likely require some difficult decisions to be made.

The problems began in February due to contract disputes between Plastech, which is headquartered in Dearborn Michigan, and Chrysler, who reportedly cancelled $200 million in contracts between the two parties. This prompted a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing from Plastech, ultimately leaving the workers in the crossfire.

Currently, various government entities and community development organizations are trying to find a buyer for the site. However, it is important to note that these were good paying jobs that were lost. Bringing in comparable employment is proving very difficult, especially under the combined effects of the current economic climate and the federal policies that promote relocation in other countries.

These issues underscore the importance of Rugola’s mission. By raising awareness, Rugola points out that Ohio workers, whether gas station managers, newspaper employees, or factory workers, engage in “good, honest work.” Election Day will tell Ohio, and the nation, which direction we will be heading.

Byesville quietly waits.