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Columbia Falls plant reopening appears unlikely

By Kevin Lessard, KCFW Reporter, klessard@kcfw.com
Published On: Jan 31 2014 10:04:15 PM MST
KALISPELL, Mont. -

For many years, the community of Columbia Falls has had more questions than answers on the future of the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company plant.

"The company keeps telling us that they're not closed, they're just curtailed and they're going to restart some day,” said former Aluminum Workers Trades Council President Dave Toavs.

"We don't believe that anymore, and we think we have enough information to prove to the public that there’s no way this company's going to run. They have no intentions of restarting this facility," said Toavs.

Toavs has been in contact with Glencore a few times within the last year, and says the union has taken all the necessary steps to reopen to plant, but nothing is being done about it.

"Every time the company came to us and said 'we need this,' or 'we need that to help us stay running, or to reopen' and we had to have congressional help. Our senators were behind us 100 percent, and they got everything this outfit, this company wanted and the company said no," Toavs said.

Current president of the Steelworkers Union Brian Doyle has been working side by side with Toavs for years to bring the plant back to life. Doyle still hopes the plant will reopen, but is unsure that even if it does, things would go back to normal.

"There are always complications when that happens. The last time we started cold we were only down for six months and we had all kinds of problems. Fortunately for us, nobody got hurt too bad," said Doyle.

The union’s labor contract expires at the end of October of this year, and Toavs and Doyle hope that with the end of the contract, Glencore will finally be forced to acknowledge the plant's permanent closure and come to the table to negotiate a severance package for the laid-off workers.

"Most people I've talked to on the streets say they don't think its ever going to fire up either, so let’s get on with life," said Toavs.