AK Steel will idle the C blast furnace at Dearborn Works beginning this week for an undetermined period of time. Dearborn has been impacted by recent shutdowns in the automotive industry and has been criticized for its handling of safety measures during the coronavirus crisis. At least one employee at the Dearborn steel mill has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
UAW Local 600 posted a notice to members on Friday that operations will be idled and commended Cleveland-Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves for “making the decision to put our people’s health and safety first.”
Additionally, UAW Local 3044 received notice that effective March 31 AK Steel Rockport Works will reduce operations for approximately two weeks, resulting in the layoff of 48 employees. Rockport Works produces cold-rolled carbon, coated and stainless steel products.
Cleveland-Cliffs, parent of AK Steel, faced criticism by Michigan lawmakers that the company was not doing enough to protect its workers at Dearborn. U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-12th District) and Rashida Tlaib (D-13th District), state Rep. Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn) and state Sens. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) and Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) put out a joint statement that said:
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“Nothing is more important than protecting people’s health during this pandemic. We are extremely concerned about reports of inadequate health and safety measures at the AK Steel plant in Dearborn. We are calling on the new parent company to immediately institute proper health and safety measures, including regular cleaning of the facility, proper social distancing, evaluating which workers should not be considered ‘essential’ and should return home, and more. The company must develop these precautionary measures and communicate them clearly to every worker as soon as possible. Every company in Michigan needs to do its part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent this pandemic from becoming worse. Cleveland-Cliffs, do the right thing, now.”
Cleveland-Cliffs said it is working with the employee union to reduce potential exposure to the virus. “(We are) doing the right things for the preservation of our 12,000 employees across all our operations, Dearborn included,” said the company in a statement. “Being a vital business for our country’s economic stability and local Dearborn economy, Cleveland-Cliffs is committed to keeping our workforce safe while the company continues to operate. We have a company medical director on staff that is advising the management team, as well as continually monitoring the COVID-19 health issue.”
Dearborn Works has a daily capacity of 6,000 net tons.
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