Steel Mills

Post-Christmas Layoffs for Granite City

Written by Sandy Williams

Layoffs at US Steel Granite City Works are expected to begin December 27, according to reports by USW leaders in the Dec. 10 Bellville News-Democrat.

US Steel announced in October that it was considering idling the steel plant in Granite City and issued WARN notices to over 2000 workers. Shortly before Thanksgiving the company confirmed that workers would begin leaving the plant around Christmas.

USW Local 1899 president Dan Simmons said most of the layoffs will come from Local 1899- approximately 1,275 workers. Simmons said he expects the shutdown to take longer than the previous idling in 2009.

“It will not go as quickly because we have some slab inventory and hot strip will run for another three weeks,” Simmons said. “That will roughly get us into the third week of January. After that, it will take four or five days before the slab inventory runs out. Then, we will shut that down.”

The cold mill will be closed about two weeks after the slab inventory is exhausted and the final shutdown by February, he said. A minimal crew will be left behind for maintenance.

United Steelworkers District 7 Sub District 2 Director Dave Dowling expects 45 union members at the adjacent Stein Steel plant, a processor of slag, will be laid off by December 21. USW Local 50 had 202 members laid off at the company’s coke operations in April.

“The timing can’t get any worse with the holiday season,” said USW Local 50 President Jason Chism. “We’re in horrible times in the steel market.”

US Steel’s said the layoffs are “a result of continued challenging global market conditions including fluctuating oil prices, reduced rig counts and associated inventory overhang, depressed steel prices and unfairly traded imports, which continue to have a significant impact on the business.”

Simmons said local leaders have been calling for government action on imports.

“The government has to take their heads out of the sand and say this is real,” he said. “It’s imports, imports, imports. Even the Chinese realize they are flooding the market and that they are killing themselves. They are selling that at a loss and have even shut down some facilities because they are at over capacity.”

Simmons dismissed rumors that the plant would never reopen noting Granite City makes a grade of steel required by the automotive industry.

“It’s a grade of steel that no one else can make,” he said. “Other mills have tried it and failed miserably.”

The mill is expected resume production once demand improves. The USW leaders are hoping for a short work stoppage but said there is no indication of how long the idling could last.

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