By ROBERT KELLY
Granite City, IL – Laid-off members of United Steelworkers Local 1063 expressed happiness recently with $60 Schnucks gift cards provided by their union to help them with groceries over the holidays
Local 1063 raised more than $22,000 in just three weeks to bring that bit of holiday cheer to its members, many of whom have been laid off since January 2020, said union President Antonio Wellmaker.
Union members came to the union hall over two days just before Christmas to claim their gift cards. “We appreciate it,” said member Parrifh Sanders. “I need whatever help they can give me.”
A DIFFICULT YEAR, A CALL FOR HELP
Amsted Rail laid off nearly 200 members of Local 1063 in February of last year, citing a lack of orders for the steel castings, and closed the plant on Nov. 23 citing complications from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The shutdown affected more than 400 members of Steelworkers Local 1063, Machinist Locals 660, 688 and 313 and Electrical Workers Local 309.
With the additional layoffs coming just before the holidays, Wellmaker and Terry Biggs, Labor liaison with the United Way of Greater St. Louis, came up with the idea for the gift cards, which they thought would be better than trying to organize a direct holiday food give-away for Local 1063 members. But they had only three weeks to implement that plan.
Some 30 area businesses, other unions, organizations and individuals quickly answered the call for help, Wellmaker said. He and Biggs said they were overwhelmed by the generosity. “That’s a really good response,” Biggs said.
Schnucks added to the response by giving laid-off workers a five percent discount, in addition to the gift cards.
Wellmaker said Amsted was planning to recall about 240 workers early this year to restart limited production at the Granite City plant. “But there will still be over 200 workers laid off,” he said.
Amsted Rail’s predecessor, American Steel Foundries, began operations in Granite City in 1902.
In 1980, the company employed approximately 1,700 people. The plant was closed following a major downturn in the steel and railcar production industry in November 1982 and remained closed until June 1989.
American Steel Foundries and Keystone Industries merged in 2001, becoming ASF-Keystone. The company was renamed Amsted Rail a few years later.