Steel workers’ unemployment bill sent to governor

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Granite City SteelBy CARL GREEN

Illinois Correspondent 

Granite City – The legislation that laid-off workers of Granite City Steel have been waiting for has been passed and sent to the governor for his signature.

Senate Bill 1941 would extend unemployment benefits for the steel workers for another 26 weeks beyond the original 26-week benefits period in a year. That would make for some happier holidays for those workers and their families.

The amount of the extended benefits would be the same as the weekly benefits the workers received during the regular unemployment period along with dependents’ allowances.

Both the House and Senate recently passed the bill with strong bipartisan support during the post-election veto session, and the bill was sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner. There was no indication whether he would sign or veto it.

The House passed the bill 107-2, while the Senate passed it 47-6.

The bill was sponsored in the House by Dan Beiser (D-Alton) and Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea), plus Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) and Eddie Lee Jackson (D-East St. Louis).

In the Senate, it was sponsored by Bill Haine (D-Alton) with co-sponsors including Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) and Sam McCann (R-Carlinville).

STILL SHUT

The plant was shut down in December, 2015, because of an influx of cheap foreign steel entering the U.S. market illegally. The federal government has been pursuing a trade case, but there are no signs that U.S. Steel is ready to re-open the plant, which has laid off about 2,300 employees.

“U.S. Steel workers and their families continue to suffer the disastrous effects of illegal trade practices in the steel market,” Hoffman said. “I will continue fighting for any relief that can be provided until the mills are up and running again.”

Hoffman and Beiser negotiated an agreement between labor groups, business groups and the Illinois Department of Employment Security to extend the benefits.

“Extending these benefits is an attempt to provide relief for local families, but it is not a solution to the problem,” Beiser said. “I will continue doing everything I can to support the steel workers in our community until the federal government takes action to stop the illegal dumping of foreign steel.”

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