Kentucky Steelworker heads to the Buckeye State for Obama

The hours are long and the wages not so hot.

About half the time, Kentucky Steelworker Chris Ormes doesn't get paid at all.

But I'm loving it," said Ormes, 37, president of USW Local 1241 in Bardstown. "I'm at ground zero, and that's where I want to be."

     

He means Ohio, whose electoral vote will likely decide who wins the presidential election.

Ormes is a foot soldier in a small army of union volunteers who are toiling 12- and even 14-hour days to help President Obama take the Buckeye State.

"We've come in from all over," said Ormes, who is based in Portsmouth, an old history-rich Ohio River town.

"We're handing out leaflets at plant gates. We're walking door-to-door, and we're phone banking."

Ormes, who sports a navy blue "Steelworkers for Obama" tee shirt, outlined a typical campaign day:

"I started leafleting Steelworkers at a paper mill in Chillicothe at 4 a.m. Then, I came back to Portsmouth and did a walk until 10 a.m. After that, I was on my own time. I volunteered at Democratic headquarters and started making phone calls. Then I went back to my motel and started writing reports."

There'll be no rest for the weary Ormes until election day. "We're going straight through every day until then."

Ormes lives in Elizabethtown, Ky., about a four-hour drive from Portsmouth. He did head home one evening to be with his wife, Stacy, and their son, Levi, for a special program at the high school where Levi is a senior.

"But I drove straight back after that."

Ormes concedes Kentucky will almost certainly go for Republican Mitt Romney.

"I tell people I'm from Kentucky, but I'm ashamed to say that two of labor's biggest obstacles in Washington are from Kentucky: Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul."

Ormes voted against both senators, who are among the most anti-union lawmakers in Washington.

This time last year, Ormes campaigned for a candidate who won big--Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, the union-endorsed Democrat who earned a second term in a landslide.

“I've learned a lot about politics and am still learning," Ormes said. He said his main mentor is Ernest R. "Billy" Thompson, USW District 8 director. “He believed enough in me to put me in this battle, and I will always be indebted to him for that.”

Ormes' other mentors include Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO; plus brother Steelworkers Jeff Wiggins, president of Local 9447 in Calvert City, Ky.; Jim Key, vice president, Local 550, Paducah, Ky., and state AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Larry Jaggers, who belongs to Local 1693, Louisville.

"I'm in Ohio because I wanted to go someplace where I could help President Obama," Ormes said. "Our union endorsed him, and the union has always been there for me. The union has always encouraged me and brought me along."

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