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    Posted June 2, 2014 by
    Aiken,, South Carolina

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    A Glimpse Into Madness


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Corrine Thomas (pictured), a longtime employee at Aiken, South Carolina, fiberglass manufacturing plant AGY, decided to speak out about the month-long lockout that has affected her and her colleagues. Since early last month, there has been a lockout due to a dispute with the plant workers' union over a new labor contract.

    Thomas said the lockout came as a surprise to employees and has put considerable financial strain on her family. ‘The one thing that I want people to know is that there was no way for most of us to prepare for such a tragedy and as a result, we are suffering immensely. We are the innocent pawns in a power struggle,' she said.

    'We are the ones that are on the verge of eviction, some are sitting in the dark, our accounts have been overdrafted to make ends meet.’

    CNN affiliate WRDW first reported on the lockout last month.

    AGY posted this press release on May 3:

    'AGY and Teamsters Local No. 509 have been meeting since March 24, 2014 to negotiate a new contract for the Company’s employees at its Aiken Plant prior to the contract expiration at midnight on May 1, 2014. Unfortunately, after many days of discussions, the negotiations were not productive. As a result, on April 29, 2014, AGY gave Teamsters’ Union Leadership the Company’s final offer for a new three (3) year agreement and requested that the offer be presented to the Union’s membership for a vote. Unfortunately, Teamsters Leadership immediately rejected AGY’s proposal, stating that it would not present the proposal to its membership or give its membership the opportunity to vote on the proposal. It is AGY’s understanding that, in fact, no such vote ever occurred. Instead, the Union called a strike at midnight on May 1, 2014. AGY is very disappointed in the Union’s position and its refusal to seriously consider AGY’s proposal. While the strike is in progress, AGY will continue to operate the Aiken Plant.

    'AGY values and respects our employees and hopes to reach an amicable resolution to get the Union to agree to a modern 21st century collective bargaining agreement.'
    - hhanks, CNN iReport producer

    I’ve been an employee at AGY for almost 10 years, actually, August 7, 2014 would be 10 years exactly. No job at AGY would be considered easy at this fiberglass manufacturing plant, but if you are dedicated and hard working, it does get better with time. Over the years that I’ve been employed I’ve seen many people come and go, like I said the work is very physically taxing, but the satisfaction of accomplishing goals by achieving production rates and knowing that I’m an integral part of the company makes it worthwhile . Initially , I truly enjoyed going to work, meeting my coworkers hearing their stories of their families, eventually, my coworkers and I became just like family. We were at work more than we were at home. Our swing shift schedule is seven days on 1st shift with one day off and seven days on 2nd shift with one day off and seven days on 3rd shift with 5 days off . I worked as an inspector ensuring that customers got the best possible product that we had to offer, and I enjoyed my job.

    On May 1, 2014, my 10 years of hard work were brought to an abrupt halt as if my hard work didn’t matter. I’ve been told that I’m extremely naïve to the cruelty of the world and what really makes the world go round, and on this day, I found the truth out the hard way. I knew that the company and my union was bumping heads, but, and this is solely how I feel, I never thought it would go this far. As I drove up to the plant to my horror, I discovered that neither I, nor my coworkers were allowed to work anymore. The whole thing seemed surreal to me, it’s 2014! Who stops their workers from coming to work because they can’t come to an agreement? Even people that were not in the union could not go to work. We began demonstrating outside the plant property early the next morning in rotating shifts. During the 1st few days after the lockout my mood was bittersweet, after all the years of working swing shifts I was now able to spend quality time with my two teenage children, but even in the midst of the happiness of quality time; a shadow loomed. “How on earth am I going to feed my babies?” is the question I asked of myself. The next day bright and early I reluctantly applied for food stamps, all I’ve ever done is work hard to provide so this was blow to my pride to have to apply for government assistance. I cried all that day but somehow managed to dry my tears before my children got home from school. Holding onto faith gets hard when you have bill collectors calling you every day. I cringe every time I see my phone ring. Sometimes the bill collectors come to my house, but, my replies remain the same, have nothing to tell them, I honestly don’t know anything to tell them. I’m as much in the dark about all that’s going on as they are. What I do know is I don’t have a job, I haven’t been approved for food stamps , the money that I get from the union is not enough to sustain my household. Have you ever had to decide between putting food on the table or putting gas in the car so that you can get back and forth to look for another job? This has devastated my family. I don’t even care about the fact that my credit is now a horrible mess, my focus is on, paying my lights and rent. I know some people say that I should have foreseen this coming and saved up, but I was already living from paycheck to paycheck. I’m raising my kids on my own with no support from their father how on earth was I supposed to prepare for such a tragedy? I knew that I was tired of living from check to check before so I enrolled in school to earn my degree but that was as far as I got. I look around at family and friends who have not a care in the world, going on vacations or something as simple as going out to eat, and it breaks my heart because I cannot provide that for my children at this time. The whole world seems oblivious to our plight, and it could be because they don’t know. I went to several coworkers to see if they wanted to help get our story out there and most said no, or brushed me off. Perhaps, they are afraid of the company or think the union will turn their backs on us. Even though that disappoints me I understand, but in my current state of mind, I feel like, what more can they take from me, from us? That company is where it is today based off of our hard work, we are the ones that missed holidays with families, special occasions, because we were at work thinking that our company cared about us, appreciated us. It’s as if all traces of humanity is gone within the powers that govern AGY. As I’m writing this, I’m in tears, not knowing what tomorrow may bring, everyday it’s a new disappointment. Even if we are allowed to go back to work, things will never be the same because now I see how the company really feels about me and exactly how much I’m worth to them
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