BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - About 100 employees from the Century Aluminum plant in Mount Holly protested outside state owned utility Santee Cooper Thursday morning, with the closing of the plant looming.
Officials say the plant will shut down Dec. 31, putting 600 people out of work if an agreement cannot be reached to supply power to the plant.
"These people don't deserve this. They deserve an opportunity to take care of their families just like the folks that work in this building," plant human resource manager Marvin Dickerson said.
Century wants to buy cheaper power from out of state and in return pay Santee Cooper to transmit the electricity. Santee Cooper officials want to extend the current agreement that calls for the utility to provide power to the plant.
The utility says if it allows Century to buy power from out of state, it will have to raise rates for other customers.
The protesting workers weren't buying that explanation.
Most of them wore bright yellow tee shirts that read 'Empower Us.'
They carried signs that called Santee Cooper a monopoly.
Other signs labeled the utility's president and CEO Lonnie Carter as 'the Grinch who stole Christmas.'
"I think they're afraid if we can go buy power and bring it in at two-thirds of what they're gonna charge us, I think they're scared to death other people are gonna want to do it too," Century Aluminum employee Bill Anglin said. "And if they do that, this whole kingdom that they built behind us right here is gonna crumble."
The workers demanded to meet with Santee Cooper officials, who said they will try to schedule a meeting, possibly Friday with a smaller group of employees.
The protesters promised to return if they don't get some answers.
"We need to settle this now and that's why we're here," Dickerson said.
A spokeswoman for Governor Nikki Haley said Thursday the Department of Employment and Workforce is setting up workshop at Century Aluminum for job placement and resume' writing for employees if the plant closes.