Photo by Theo Tate
U.S. Steel's Granite City Works plant.
A delegation from Madison County will visit the nation’s capital in an effort to retool the Granite City Works steel plant.
Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan, Granite City Mayor Ed Hagnauer, Madison County Community Development Administrator Frank Miles and union officials will go to Washington, D.C., for talks with congressmen on ways to keep the U.S. Steel plant viable. The delegation also will meet with representatives of the U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Steel officials.
The trip originally was scheduled for this week but was postponed because of an East Coast blizzard. As of Monday, the delegation had not announced a rescheduled date for the trip.
Some 2,080 workers received layoff notices in October for a temporary shutdown of the plant, which manufactures steel used for oil industry infrastructure. U.S. Steel cites falling steel prices, a fluctuating oil market and unfair trade practices as reasons for the temporary idling.
The County Board passed a resolution Jan. 20 urging Illinois congressmen to review tariff policies on steel goods to eliminate the practice of steel “dumping,” a flood of cheap imports that puts American manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage.
“This is one time where you have a situation where both the company and the union personnel are fighting together against the dumping of steel,” Dunstan said in an interview after the meeting.
Dunstan said one focus of the effort is to move the plant into producing steel for the automotive industry, in addition to oil industry products.
“From all indications, this is one of the most productive plants they have,” he said. “We have a workforce second to none, but it’s just because of the type of steel … the oil prices have gone down so far, that type of steel is not in demand.
“They have spent a lot of money down at that plant, so we don’t think it’s a permanent closure,” he said. “We just have to get it where we do other types of steel to keep it more viable, and that’s going to be good for the employees.”
The delegation also plans to meet with U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, an Indiana congressman whose district is home to U.S. Steel’s Gary Works plant and an advocate of trade law enforcement.
“We will be asking Congressman Visclosky what can be done at the local level to support his and other officials’ efforts to support the American steel industry,” Dunstan said in a press release. “And we will ask Sen. (Richard) Durbin, Sen. (Mark) Kirk and the members of our congressional delegation for their leadership and support, not only for the steel industry, but for the men and women employed at the Granite City Works.”
Approximately 600 people still are working at the plant, according to a United Steelworkers representative. Except for a skeleton crew, the plant will be completely shut down by early March. The company has not given any indication about the duration of the temporary idling.
A U.S. Steel spokesperson could not be reached.
The County Board also approved the appointment of William “Bill” Gushleff of Granite City to fill the vacancy created by the Nov. 19 resignation of Terry Davis from District 19. Gushleff will serve for the remainder of Davis’ term, which expires in December, and will not run for election in November. Two Democrats, Harry A. Briggs and Michael Charles Parkinson; and one Republican, Kathleen “Kathy” Goclan, are running in the March 15 primary.
Gushleff is a native of Madison and a Madison High School graduate. An alumnus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville with bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Gushleff taught American government and history for 31 years at Belleville West High School. He served 10 years as a Madison alderman and eight years as a Nameoki Township trustee. He was an adviser to the SIU president in the late 1970s.
Gushleff was on vacation Jan. 20 and was to be sworn into office this week.
“What we tried to do is come up with somebody that was neutral in the district,” Dunstan said. “What we want to do is let the people in that district decide who they want to have represent them.”