Craig McKey sworn in as new president of Steelworkers Local 1899

Illinois Correspondent


Granite City, IL – The steelworkers of Granite City have a new union leader at a time when their entire future seems to be in the balance.

Craig McKey was sworn in as the new president of United Steelworkers Local 1899 on June 6 at the Labor Temple in Granite City, along with returning and newly elected officers and board members for the local. McKey has been in the union for 15 years and was serving as vice president before he ran for president, replacing Dan Simmons.

McKey takes over at a time when the Granite City steel mill has been idled and many members of the local are laid off. While he and his officers are managing potential grievances, wrangling with U.S. Steel over severance packages and ensuring members are taken care of, they’re also facing a struggling construction market for steel and the looming question of Nippon’s proposal to buy U.S. Steel – and what that means for Granite City.

“None of us can predict what’s going to happen a week from now,” said Jason Chism, regional representative from USW, who swore in the officers.

McKey reiterated that Nippon insists that there won’t be a reduction in manpower, but at the same time there are 290 members who have been laid off for six months. Meanwhile, there’s another offer on the table for SunCoke to purchase part of the plant and put it back to work, but details on that proposal won’t be available until later in the summer.

McKey said Granite City’s steelworkers are the most productive with quality, on-time steel in the country when they’re allowed to work.

“If we get the opportunity to start up, people get the opportunity to get up and get back to work,” he said.

Before he was sworn in, McKey was involved in Nippon executives’ recent visit to the Granite City plant.

U.S. Steel CEO David Burritt publicly maintains his belief that the Nippon deal will proceed despite opposition from USW and both presidential candidates, according to Bloomberg. However, an activist shareholder group warned Nippon that its acquisition of U.S. Steel will raise its decarbonization costs.

Nippon leaders responded that post-acquisition, Nippon will accelerate efforts to be carbon-neutral by 2050, according to Reuters. It is currently testing a process to feed dydrogen into its coking coal-exposed blast furnaces, as well as using carbon capture and more electric arc furnaces.

Nippon recently announced that it has won orders from Qatar Energy for high-alloy seamless pipes used for carbon capture, along with Sumitomo Corp., according to Reuters. The Japanese company’s bid for U.S. Steel vaulted it to Time Magazine’s 2024 listing of the 100 most influential companies in late May. U.S. Steel itself was not on the list.

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