New Philadelphia Times Reporter

July 27, 2004

Area Steelworkers plugged in, Plight of industry gets national spotlight

By PAUL M. KRAWZAK
Copley News Service

BOSTON – Stark County, O., took center stage at the Democratic National Convention Monday night as two Timken Co. workers appeared via a satellite hookup to urge delegates from all over the nation to elect Sen. John F. Kerry president.

“Every time somebody loses their job their family suffers,” said Bill Wright, vice president at United Steelworkers of America Local 1123 in Canton, in the live broadcast to Boston.

“Our county and our city are suffering and nobody in Washington, D.C., is listening.”

As Wright spoke from the Canton union hall, thousands of delegates watched him on a huge red and blue screen above the convention stage.

Wright works at one of three Timken bearing plants employing 1,300 workers, which the company plans to close. Kerry has criticized the company and urged President Bush to intervene.

“It’s not just about profits, it’s about people,” said Wright, 49, a Canton resident. “It’s time that people are taken into consideration.”

Appearing in a second satellite broadcast, Timken steelworker Randy Feemster described Kerry as a strong leader who can preserve jobs threatened by illegal steel imports.

“We need jobs in this community,” said Feemster, 54, a New Philadelphia resident.

“I have two children that graduated from West Point,” said Feemster, who described himself as a disabled Vietnam veteran. “My daughter served in Iraq earlier last year.”

As the two spoke, many delegates cheered, including Ohio delegates who are sitting in a prime area near the stage at the FleetCenter.

“Jobs are being sold to the lowest bidder and it is time that we change that,” said Wright, a father of two. “The only way we can change that is to support the Kerry-Edwards ticket. They’re going to be our voice.”

Kerry campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri drew a parallel between the Timken plant closings and what Democrats say is poor treatment of workers by the Bush administration.

“The way these workers are being treated by the Timken Co. represents a lot of what is wrong with the Republican approach to the economy,” she said.

The company’s chairman, W.R. “Tim” Timken Jr., is a heavy contributor to the Bush campaign and other Republican candidates.

Timken spokesman Jason Saragian declined to comment on the broadcast, except to say that the plants are being closed because they are not competitive with other unionized factories in the United States.

Ohio delegates praised the broadcast, which they said demonstrates the key role that Stark County is playing in the presidential race.

“I think the more notice that Canton has, the more serious people become and the more they take their vote seriously,” said delegate Allen Schulman, a Canton attorney.

Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Lorain, who also is a delegate, said the Steelworker broadcast was more evidence that “the ground zero center of this campaign is Ohio, and we’re going to win Ohio for John Kerry.”