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Don't Drink the Tea. Think With the WE.

Natural Gas Boom Brings Thousands of Jobs to Ohio, but Ohioans Aren’t Getting Them…

photo credit: Nancy Shaar

The opening of the Marcellus and Utica Shale for natural gas drilling has brought a wave of business to Ohio that was expected to create jobs for local residents. While some Ohioans have found work in this booming industry many have simply seen the jobs they are qualified for go to out of state workers.  

Southeast of Canton in Carrolton, Ohio, more than 50 protesters gathered along Main Street last week demanding that the oil and gas companies that have come to the region hire local workers.  As companies move in, so too do workers from Texas.  Mike Engbert of the Laborers’ (LiUNA!) District Council of Ohio explains the situation plainly:

“We need jobs for Ohio.  We have the skilled workers here. And they’re ready to go to work. But the oil companies are bringing in workers from other states. And people in this area can’t find work. They have families to feed, too, and they should be getting the jobs.”

The day before the Carrolton protest, upset workers congregated at the work site of Willbros Group, Inc., a global pipeline contractor doing extensive work in the region. The company claims that 20 percent of its regional workforce is made up of Ohio natives.  That number is not high enough to quell the discontent:

“Willbros is a 36-mile-long pipeline project. It’s very big in scope. The contractors are hiring only one in five workers from Ohio,” said Engbert. “Eighty percent are from Texas. We are trying to bring up awareness that this work can be done by Ohio residents.”

Willbros has a long standing relationship with another company targeted by the protest, Access Midstream, who is one of three companies working to complete the Utica East Ohio Buckeye complex.  When finished, the complex will consist of cryogenic plants in Leesville and Kensington and a fractionation facility in Scio.  The three will then be connected by a series of pipelines. According to Don Kurczi, a member of LiUNA!, the cryogenic plant in Kensington is being built by Fagen, Inc.  He says the Minnesota-based company brought in 600 workers from Texas for the construction phase. Jake Croston, president of LiUNA Local 1015, joined the protest because he believes those jobs could be done by local workers:

“We’re trying to get work.  Instead of hiring people and bringing them in from Texas and Oklahoma, Ohio needs to get these jobs. Ohio needs to get this work. We need to put that money, those wages, back into the local county and local economy.”


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