LETTER: New jobs vital to community’s health

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As the business agent for Boilermakers Local 374 here in southern Indiana, I represent approximately 500 men and women. These people don’t just work here, but they live here as well.

My job as their representative isn’t merely to make sure they are being treated fairly on the job, to make sure they are being paid correctly according to the contract and to make sure their work conditions are safe.

My job is to also find them jobs. Not just jobs for now, but also possible jobs for the future.

On May 15 I attended the air permit hearing for Ohio Valley Resources’ fertilizer plant in Spencer County. And just as I knew they would be, the Sierra Club and Valley Watch were there to oppose the building of this plant, just as they did the gasification plant at the permit hearings last year.

Now, I have to be honest and say that boilermakers are in that unique position where we actually benefit somewhat from the work that environmentalists do.

We not only build and maintain power plants and boilers, but we also build and maintain the pollution-control systems that go on them.

That includes the injection systems that will be going in at American Electric Power’s Rockport plant by next year and the selective catalytic-reduction systems that will be installed on Unit 1 by 2017 and Unit 2 by 2019. And I must also admit that I do appreciate the clean air that I breathe and the clean water that I cannot only drink, but can fish and swim in. I’m sure that if it wasn’t for them, we would not have these luxuries.

However, I couldn’t help but think about all of the jobs that would be produced by this plant, not only in construction, but also in permanent and spinoff jobs as well. I also noticed that they didn’t offer alternatives to the plant systems to help decrease the emissions. They merely were there to oppose the plants, and in so doing, the jobs that they would create.

Being the dispatcher for Local 374, I take pride in finding jobs for the men and women that I represent, and also sending those same individuals to work.

Tom Utter of (Spencer County’s) Lincolnland Economic Development Corp. does the same thing. He works hard to bring jobs to this area. He has worked diligently to find industries that are willing to come here and make southern Indiana their new home, and bring new opportunities to the community.

I’m just curious if the Sierra Club and Valley Watch have considered the fact that they have jobs, while there are others in this area who do not. How about all of the seniors and college students who will be graduating, not only now, but also in the future?

Where will they have to go to find decent paying jobs? China? Bangladesh?

The fact is that this fertilizer plant will be producing a product that the farmers in this area need. These same farmers will get the product from somewhere, whether it’s made here or somewhere else.

My challenge to The Sierra Club and Valley Watch is that if there is something about one of these job-producing facilities that they don’t like, how about working to find an alternative instead of simply opposing it? How about considering our neighbors, friends and family members who are laid off and remembering that just because we have jobs, that doesn’t mean everyone else does too?

After all, Indiana’s unemployment is 8.5 percent, one full percentage point higher than the national average.

Boilermakers Local 374
Zone 3 Business Agent and Dispatcher