GRANITE CITY — Last month, the United States Steel Corp. announced a tentative plan to idle the Granite City Works operations, and approximately 2,000 employees were issued notices under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.
Dan Simmons, president of the United Steelworkers Local 1899 union, said a decision on whether the plant will be shut down could be made in December.
“We’re working currently under a 60-day WARN notice that expires in the middle of December,” Simmons said. “At this point, no one knows what that decision will be because they’re still assessing that and they’re evaluating it because we’re actually the competition of the sister plants, of all things. If the order book doesn’t improve or even gets worse, then they have to look to greater reduced operations throughout the corporation.”
Simmons said the plant has been operating on a single furnace since early October.
“We’re working under a single-furnace operation and we’ve got enough to sustain that level of that operation,” Simmons said. “If they don’t take that away from us and move it to another facility, then we’ll be OK until the order book gets back. Historically, we’re always a little bit slower in the winter due to the construction market. We usually don’t pick up until the early spring or the March timeframe. It’s been the cycle of the steel industry. But right now, if they start consolidating throughout the corporation, they can take what orders we have here or run them in another facility and we can be the subject of an idle.”
In March, U.S. Steel announced it would temporarily idle the plant and 2,080 workers would be laid off. But two months later, the corporation decided not to shut down the mill, resulting in more than 2,000 workers keeping their jobs. 80 workers were laid off.
“We survived that last WARN notice in May,” Simmons said. “In the end of May, that expired and we got through that and we’re back up to a two-furnace operation. We were doing OK.”
Simmons said by October, things have changed.
“The influx of illegal imports and dumping of imports have really crushed us,” Simmons said. “Illegal imports have increased to the level of another 15 to 20 percent over last year, which is an historic number. We’ve got three big cases in front of the trade commission. Last week, they did an erosion resistance case. Preliminary findings were favorable and a 216 percent duty was the finding on China alone. Some of the other countries weren’t quite at the level we would like to, but the ITC (International Trade Commission) hands down that final decision in January. The process is so slow for us to get the enforcement of the trade cases, but that’s the long-term answer. They’re selling at a price and they’re dumping it at a price. Those are government-subsidized. We didn’t pay any labor at all. We couldn’t compete against them. It’s not a level playing field and it’s not fair.”
Simmons said he hopes the steel mill will stay in business.
“We don’t have any solid answers,” he said. “We’re kind of in limbo. We’re waiting for that kind of decision. Right now, we’re working on that premise that we’re going to work through with a single-furnace operation. We hope that we can avoid a WARN notice shutdown.”