Beleaguered Steel Workers in Granite City now face layoff threat

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Granite City Steel
WORKERS LEAVING at shift change at Granite City Steel. – St. Louis Post-Dispatch photo

 

Granite City – United Steel Workers leaders are asking members who work at Granite City Steel to remain focused, work safely and not be distracted by the company’s newest layoff threat in the midst of contract negotiations.

U.S. Steel has issued notice that it may decide to close the steel plant temporarily because of market conditions. That would put 2,000 people out of work and cause major coping problems for Granite City, which relies heavily on the steel mill.

THE STEEL TOWN

Dale Stewart, executive secretary treasurer of the Southwestern Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council, noted that life in Granite City revolves around its steel mill, and that the last plant shutdown, in 2008, caused a lot of problems.

“We were down six or seven months,” he said. “It took us a long time to recover from that.

“Everything they’ve got there in Granite City is driven off that mill, from the public works people on up to the water department to everybody,” he said. “It was not a pretty scene. We were all struggling to make ends meet.”

Even though the last layoff warning did not result in a shutdown, Stewart is not shrugging off this one. “They’ve got the notices out,” he said. “We don’t know how serious this is going to be.”

MARKET CONDITIONS

The company said market conditions include fluctuating oil prices, lower steel prices and unfair import competition – about the same list of problems U.S. Steel cited in May, when it made a similar warning of a plant closing but ultimately chose not to act on it.

smart logo color+Phone copyThe difference is that this time, the company and the union are in the middle of tough contract negotiations in which U.S. Steel has been using the market conditions as a way to seek contract concessions.

A union bargaining update said some progress had been made in the negotiations.

“While we have made slow but steady progress on these issues, we believe there is still much work to be done to reach an agreement that is fair to both sides,” the union said. “We know many of our fellow USW members are concerned and frustrated by the pace of these negotiations. We share your feelings, but at the same time, we are committed to continuing to bargain for as long as it takes to reach a fair agreement.

“The keys to our success will be solidarity and communication,” the union said. “Stay connected, stay strong and keep working safely!”

VOLATILE

The union members would receive notifications from the company by mail.

“Members should keep in mind this notice, required by law prior to any significant layoff or plant idle, is based on current market conditions and customers, and those situations are volatile and subject to change.”

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