Mr. President, I also rise in support, along with Senator Rockefeller. What a good job he has done. We have both had the honor of serving our great State as Governors. As every Governor and legislator knows, we fight for every job we can create. We fight like the dickens to save every job we have.
As the Senator said, he has been fighting these battles for many years. I was in the legislature when he was our Governor. We fought side by side then. When I became Governor, he was a Senator in Washington, and he fought along with me on every job we created and saved. Now here we are again side by side fighting.
Ravenswood, in Jackson County, is a very unique place. In Ripley and all the surrounding towns, we have about 22,000 people who live there, and 4,200 people live in Ravenswood, 3,000 in Ripley. One can tell how that is the lifeblood, truly, of the community. Lucy Harbert is the mayor. She is dogmatic. Karen Gorrell is unbelievable. There are men and women there fighting basically for what was promised to them, fighting for survival.
I think the big story is that in 2009, the plant closed, as the Senator said. In 2010, all the employees were told all of their health care benefits that had been promised to them and negotiated in good faith were gone--all gone by the stroke of a pen. The courts upheld it.
Lo and behold, we have a new management team. We have Mike Bless--and we are talking about Monterey, CA. Clear out there. These people came in and saw what we had, the fabric of the town and the fortitude of these people. So management said: We need to do something. Karen Gorrell and the rest of them never let up. They said: We want to be treated fairly. We want what we were promised. Everyone made considerations here.
What we have coming up with a vote tomorrow--as the Senator said, there will be a vote for the retirees to accept the proposal they have been negotiating, which I am hopeful and I know Senator Rockefeller is too--will be passed tomorrow. That is the first step in the right direction. The State has entered as a partner also. With the State, they will work out power contracts and things of this sort. How important are power prices? How important is the coal and the power that coal produces? Without that, we would be dead in the water.
There is so much promising going on. But when you see a community come together--Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, our friend, worked hard in the legislature. This is not a story we see today in America that much.
In 2009, the plant closed. Over 600 people lost their jobs in a little town of 4,200 people. Now we have a chance to at least get 400 or 500 back on the job. We have not seen that turn around too much. You can imagine why Senator Rockefeller and I are so excited, and I think more than anything we are so proud that we represent a State that has so much resilience. They have stuck together. So our hat is off, from the corporate end to the union end, to the people working together from the community.
I need to say that the President of the Steelworkers Union, Leo Girard, has just been a rock. Leo gets right in there. The Steelworkers stood behind their retirees. They stood behind them. They would not take anything less than the retirees being treated fairly. That brought everybody to the table and gave us the glue it took.
Senator Rockefeller is persuasive, as you know, in his ability to get involved and persuade people to do the right thing, and all of us were behind this effort. It came to fruition. Today, West Virginia is a brighter spot, and Ravenswood is a brighter place. Hopes are up again. The people are enthusiastic, and we can see they have a little skip in their step. That means an awful lot. These are the hardest working people, who don't ask for a whole lot--just an opportunity to take care of themselves and their families.
To Lucy Harbert, Karen Gorrell, Mike Bless, and Leo Girard, Senator Rockefeller, and the entire West Virginia delegation, I think everybody should be extremely pleased. Tomorrow we know it will be a successful vote. We are going to show the country we can compete with anybody in the world. I know the occupant of the chair feels the same way in Maryland, and you have been able to. We will work together on this and start rebuilding America one job at a time. This is 400 jobs at one time.
With that, I say thank you to all of the good people in West Virginia who made this happen. I thank Senator Rockefeller for his leadership over the years. I have been honored to work with him. He has been a tremendous mentor. We will continue to work together for many years.
With that, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.