‘God will not smile if we trash His gift’: Area churches ask PTTGC to guarantee locals will have the cracker plant jobs

Belmont County

Church leaders are asking that 50 percent of the jobs created for both the construction and operation phase by PTTGC be secured for local workers

BELMONT COUNTY, OH (WTRF) — Area churches are asking PTTGC, the company that could be bringing a billion-dollar industry to Belmont County, to think of the locals.

Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants are coming together to take a stance (not necessarily for or against the proposed Ethane Cracker Plant at Dilles Bottom) but for the sake of the poor; asking that local jobs be guaranteed before a deal is signed. 

With hundreds of jobs that could be coming to the area, churches are speaking up with valley residents in mind. The core dilemma? Higher price of living, lower quality of life. 

The Christian Gospel really does give priority to the poor and to those who have lost out economically. And we have many of those people here. We’re concerned that without job guarantees, the economic benefits are just going to rollover the people that we know Jesus was most concerned with.

William Meyer, St. John’s United Church of Christ at Powhatan Point, Ohio Valley Interfaith Consortium 

God will not smile if we trash His gift. 

Father Michael Ziebarth, Greek Orthodox Church in Martins Ferry, Ohio Valley Interfaith Consortium

Tending to the well-being of their congregations, among other things, church leaders are asking that 50 percent of the jobs created for both the construction and operation phase by PTTGC be secured for local workers.  

Most of the benefits, including the good jobs, during both the construction and the operational phase may go to people who don’t live here now.

William Meyer, St. John’s United Church of Christ at Powhatan Point, Ohio Valley Interfaith Consortium 

In Ohio law prohibits political subdivisions to ask for job guarantees, but of the 10 churches that have signed onto the Ohio Valley Interfaith Consortium, they think it’s key if this cracker plant sets up shop. 

Schools, infrastructure, housing, the cost of housing. If the cracker plant comes, it’s going to change everything. 

Breathable air and drinkable water is kind of non-negotiable. But, jobs that affect generational poverty in the valley are just as important.

Pastor Meyer, Father Ziebarth

We thought they were all good points and all good concerns. And, we both agreed that we would continue talking. As you know, that this point the project is not yet a go. We are still awaiting a final investment decision.

Dan Williamson, Spokesman for PTTGC

Consensus-Theology Statements, as Adopted by OVIC:

The Christian Gospel gives priority to the poor and those who have lost out economically.

                                     This is based, partially, on Luke 4: 18; James 1: 9-11; James 2: 5-9, 14-17; James 4: 17- 5: 8; Matthew 25: 31-46; Mark 10: 17-27; Luke 6: 20-25; Isaiah 58: 3-14; A Place at the Table, 2002, #VI; Laborem Exercens, 1981, #8; and Rerum Novarum, 1891, #20.

God sets the example in Genesis 21 of meeting the vulnerable youths where they are and then lifting them up.

                                     This is based, partially, on Genesis 21: 14-18; Mark 9: 14-18; Mark 9: 36-37; Mark 10: 15-15; James 1: 27; and Quadragesimo Anno, 1931, #71. 

God wants to see fair wages and non-exploitive jobs with justice – providing reasonable self-sufficiency and security.  God strongly disapproves of wage theft and economic exploitation.

                                     This is based, partially, on James 4: 17–5: 6; Isaiah 58: 3; Micah 4: 4; Matthew 25: 31-46; Amos 2: 6-7a; Amos 5: 11-15, 21-24; Amos 8: 4-10; Laudato Si, 2015, #153-154; Rerum Novarum, 1891, #20; and Gaudium et Spes, 1965, #67.

We persons of faith must act in practical terms, as well as in spiritual terms, to deal with poverty and underemployment.

                                     This is based, partially, on Matthew 6: 11-12; Matthew 12: 1-14; Matthew 14: 13-21; James 2: 14-18; James 4: 17; and Mater et Magistra, 1961, #71. 

Concrete, Action-Goals from the Jobs Team, as Modified

and Adopted by the Ohio Valley Interfaith Consortium

1.      Advocate for commitments from PTTGC America and Daelim Chemical USA and their parent companies (hereinafter “the companies”), extending also to their subcontractors and agents, to hiring and retaining local workers.  We advocate that 50 percent of positions (and full-time-equivalents) during both the construction and operational-production phases will go to present residents of Marshall, Ohio, Wetzel, Belmont and Monroe counties.

2.      Advocate for commitments from the companies above that they will also extend and insist upon similar local-worker commitments from their yet-to-be-created or yet-to-be-identified customer enterprises locating or located in the Ohio River watershed, as a condition for selling (directly or indirectly) any of the companies’ plastic feed stock to these customer enterprises.

3.      Advocate for commitments from the companies and their subcontractors and agents to paying fair and prevailing wages and benefits — with union neutrality regarding unorganized workers — during both the construction and operational-production phases. This means there will be no anti-union campaigns by the companies, their subcontractors, agents or consultants during either construction or operational-production.

4.      Advocate for commitments from the companies that they will also extend and insist upon similar fair-wage-and-benefit and union-neutrality commitments from their yet-to-be-created or yet-to-be-identified customer enterprises locating or located in the Ohio River watershed, as a condition for selling (directly or indirectly) any of the companies’ plastic feed stock to these customer enterprises.

5.      Advocate for commitments from the companies to providing and funding employment training [as may be recommended by the OVIC Education Team] for local workers for both the construction and operation-production phases, using local schools and educational institutions. These local workers will be present residents of Marshall, Ohio, Wetzel, Belmont and Monroe counties.

6.      Advocate for commitments from the companies to providing and funding free, full-ride, university-level scholarships to local students or adults in exchange for an employment commitment of an equal number of years [or as may be recommended by the OVIC Education Team].  We advocate that the number of scholarships offered will be 25 percent of the number of positions (and full-time-equivalents) created and maintained during the operational-production phase. These guaranteed scholarships will go to present residents of Marshall, Ohio, Wetzel, Belmont and Monroe counties.

7.      Advocate for commitments from the companies that they will also extend and insist upon similar employment-training and scholarship commitments from their yet-to-be-created or yet-to-be-identified customer enterprises locating or located in the Ohio River watershed, as a condition for selling (directly or indirectly) any of the companies’ plastic feed stock to these customer enterprises.

8.      We Further Recommend that the OVIC Infrastructure Team consider the issue of public access to any worker-transit or bus systems set up by the companies or their subcontractors or agents – including linking any such transit or bus systems with existing public transit systems and extending service at least to local vocational and high schools and county seats in Marshall, Ohio, Wetzel, Belmont and Monroe counties.  This is especially important for many of our region’s impoverished or low-income students and residents who would seek to reap some of these projects’ publicly promised economic benefits, via initial training or employment opportunities that may be offered.

9.      We Further Recommend that the OVIC Housing Team consider the issue of appropriate, company-funded, private and public housing interventions during both the construction and operational-production phases.  The goal should be to reduce — rather than worsen — the current rental crisis that is cruelly afflicting (and evicting) low-income workers and residents of Marshall, Ohio, Wetzel, Belmont and Monroe counties.  We also recommend that such company-funded housing interventions also be sought [as the OVIC Housing Team may elaborate] from the yet-to-be-created customer enterprises. 

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