By CARL GREEN
Granite City, IL – With the election out of the way, the Illinois Legislature has returned to work for the veto session. One of the first acts was to advance legislation to extend unemployment benefits for Granite City Steel workers.
The House Labor and Commerce Committee has passed House Bill 6594, which would provide an additional 26 weeks of unemployment for the Steel Workers, most of whom have already exhausted their original 26 weeks of benefits.
The committee chairman, Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea), sponsored the bill along with state Rep., Dan Beiser (D-Alton). Both just won re-election.
Hoffman noted that the workers are on an indefinite layoff because of illegal dumping of foreign steel in U.S. markets.
“Putting the employees of the steel mill back to work is still the top priority, but until that happens, we will continue working to provide any relief that is available,” Hoffman said. “Right now, that means extending unemployment insurance benefits for workers and their families.”
About 2,000 workers at the U.S. Steel plant in Granite City have been laid off for more than a year. The federal government has been pursuing an illegal trade case, but it hasn’t brought the plant back on line.
“As long as there is an action I can take, I will always fight for working families in the Metro East,” said Beiser. “In the case of the steel mill in Granite City, that means getting workers much needed relief and continuing the fight to end the illegal dumping of foreign steel, urging federal officials to get rid of bad trade deals, and getting people back to work.”
Jason Chism, president of United Steelworkers Local 50 at Granite City, said the union is working both to restore the domestic industry and get relief for laid-off workers and their families.
“We are doing everything we can to get our operations up and running again and put people back to work,” Chism said. “Until that happens, we will continue to work with our local elected officials in order to do everything we can for the workers of the mill here in Granite City.”