Steel retirees celebrate re-opening of blast furnace

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BRENDAN KELLY, Democratic candidate in the Illinois 12th Congressional District and also the St. Clair County state’s attorney (third from right), was honored by officers of SOAR Chapter 7-34-2 on March 12 at the Steelworker retirees’ monthly luncheon at Neighborhood Social Club in Pontoon Beach. From left to right are Treasurer Paula Weiss, Trustee Charlie Shane, President Jeff Rains, Trustee Dorothy Asbury, Recording Secretary Marlene Carey, (Kelly), Trustee Dennis Warren and Vice President Dennis Barker. – Labor Tribune photo

Former workers can apply for jobs

By CARL GREEN
Illinois Correspondent

Pontoon Beach, IL – It just so happened that the United Steelworkers retirees had their monthly luncheon scheduled for Monday, March 12, but the timing couldn’t have been better. It gave them a chance to celebrate the return of steel-making to the U.S. Steel plant in Granite City.

Craig McKey, president of USW Local 50, stopped by to give a report before traveling to Pittsburgh to join in planning for the restart of one of the plant’s two blast furnaces, announced by the company last week.

His news included that workers who had left the company to take other jobs should have a chance to get back on. The retirees celebrated the restart by opening and sharing a bottle of champagne before eating pizza for lunch.

“We’ve got 500 employees still attached to the mill. They’ve all been recalled,” McKey said. “I don’t know who all we will get back. I’ve been told by the company that even if we get everybody back, they are probably going to be hiring additional people, so if you guys know folks out there who are looking for work, they can go to ussteel.com and apply for some positions there.”

Those jobs include electrical, mechanical and utility positions.

McKey said company officials have assured the union that the resources and funding needed for a successful startup will be available.

“Everything’s looking good,” he said. “Hopefully we can get this one-furnace operation up and running and consistent and get some iron out there. They’ve assured us that they might, potentially, look down the road at getting the other furnace started up, too.”

At one time, the USW had 1,900 members working for U.S. Steel here, he said. With the 500 added, the total will soon be about 1,300.

Some workers, he said, have had to make tough decisions about whether to leave new jobs for temporary stints at the plant, and they could now have a chance for more permanent work. “We hope some of those folks find their way in also,” he said.

STEEL TARIFFS AND SECURITY

Brendan Kelly, the Democratic candidate for Congress in the 12th District, running against incumbent Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro), said the national security rationale for the steel and aluminum tariffs that made the restart possible has been overlooked in the furor over fears of a trade war.

“We’ve got to make sure we have steel and aluminum to defend our national security,” the Navy veteran said. “The ships I served on weren’t made with Japanese steel, they were made of American steel. We need to be able to have that American steel.”

ROLLING BACK LABOR’S WINS

However, Kelly said Congress now seems intent on rolling back the hard-won protections provided by the Labor Movement.

“We have to keep fighting to move the country back in the right direction,” he said. “We’ve got a group of folks who don’t really think Social Security is a good thing, that it’s just a burden on the budget. You’ve got a group of people who think Medicare and health care are too expensive.

“They just have a view of the world that is every man for himself. And that is not why this country became the most powerful country in the world, and the greatest country in the world. It became the greatest country in the world because we took care of each other. Because we knew our destinies are linked, we were not alone in this world. We are all here to be for each other.”

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