U.S. Steel to idle blast furnace in Granite City

Could lay off more than 1,000 workers


Illinois Correspondent

U.S. Steel will idle one of its blast furnaces at the Granite City plant and potentially lay off more than 1,000 workers, blaming the United Auto Workers strike for the decision.

It is the only remaining blast furnace operating at the Granite City steel mill, which has been under pressure for more than a year after the company suggested selling off part of the mill last year. U.S. Steel announced plans to sell two blast furnaces to SunCoke Energy Inc. last year, and SunCoke would then alter the furnaces to produce pig iron, a crude material for making steel. U.S. Steel would still supply raw materials and then buy back 100 percent of the product, but SunCoke’s production would use one-third of the 1,460-person workforce.

United Steelworkers Local 1899 resisted the sale, and under its contract the union had a say in whether or not the plant was sold. Their contract was settled in December and runs to September 2026 with a 21 percent raise over four years.

Now U.S. Steel announces that it will idle the only remaining blast furnace, and the number of employees laid off has not yet been determined, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Local 1899 President Dan Simmons issued a statement that the union was informed Monday morning, Sept. 18,  about the decision to temporarily idle the primary operation of the steel mill. “The company is claiming this decision is due to a combination of order book softening throughout the corporation, specifically in the auto industry,” he said.


The decision met with immediate response from U.S. Rep. Nikki Budzinski, in whose district the plant resides, calling it an “outrage.”

“And this effort to blame this announcement on the United Auto Workers strike is a shameful attempt to pit working people against one another. We must hold them accountable,” Brudzinski said. “No company should be allowed to hand a pink slip to workers without notice and without recourse.”

Budzinski said she was in contact with U.S. Steel, United Steelworkers and Granite City Mayor Mike Parkinson. “I believe in the working men and women of Granite City and the importance of their careers to the future of our local and national economy,” Budzinski said. “I will never stop fighting to protect their jobs and their livelihoods.”

Simmons said the union representatives would meet with the company to put together a layoff minimization plan per the contract, and would keep in touch with members.

The Granite City plant has been through its fair share of layoffs and idles over the years. In 2008 U.S. Steel idled the mill, laying off 2,000 workers and then reopening in 2009. It happened again in 2015, laying off 1,800 when steel production was halted, and then an undisclosed number of non-union employees were laid off in 2019.

In August, the company announced it had rejected a $7.3 billion buyout proposal from rival company Cleveland-Cliffs, followed by an offer from private conglomerate Esmark. Cleveland-Cliffs has the support of the national union, according to international president Thomas Conway, who said that Cleveland-Cliffs was committed to the blast furnace segment of the steel market, in contrast to U.S. Steel.


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