GRANITE CITY — For the second time in seven months, the United States Steel Corp. announced that the Granite City Works operations may be temporarily idled.
2,000 plant employees were issued notices Oct. 6 under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act after U.S. Steel announced the company is planning to consolidate its North American flat-roll operations.
“The company routinely adjusts production at its operating facilities to reflect market fluctuations,” U.S. Steel said in a statement. “The potential consolidation is a result of continued challenging global market conditions including fluctuating oil prices, reduced rig counts, depressed steel prices and unfairly traded imports. These global influences continue to have a significant impact on the business. The company will be working closely with its customers and will continue to operate its steelmaking operations in Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania.”
In March, U.S. Steel announced it would temporarily idle the Granite City plant and 2,080 workers would be laid off. But two months later, the corporation decided not to shut down the plant, resulting in most workers keeping their jobs. Only 80 employees were laid off.
“When the U.S. Steel Corporation announced it would not be idling the Granite City Steel Works as was previously announced, I shared the belief of other officials and community leaders that we had averted a situation that would have negatively impacted thousands of families and the economy of Madison County,” Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the business environment that existed when U.S. Steel first considered idling the Granite City steelworks has not changed. Unfair trade practices, fluctuating oil prices and inferior steel imported from South Korea, Mexico, Turkey and elsewhere have put our country’s steel-producing companies — and our hard-working, skilled steel workers — at a distinct disadvantage and have taken us to where we are today, the possibility of the plant’s closing and another devastating blow to the men and women employed at the plant, the thousands of people employed at satellite businesses and their families.”
Granite City Works, a leading supplier of steel products and Granite City’s biggest employer, had 1,600 of its workers laid off by U.S. Steel when the plant was idled for about seven months in 2009. U.S. Steel, which has its corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh, also has steelmaking operations in Birmingham, Ala.; Braddock, Pa.; Gary, Ind.; and Ecorse-River Rouge, Mich.
Granite City Mayor Ed Hagnauer said he hopes idling the steel mill can again be averted.
“I’m an optimistic person,” Hagnauer said. “I hope for the best.”
U.S. Steel has not set a timetable on when the company will make a final decision. Hagnauer said the shutdown could affect the entire Metro East.
“We’re very concerned and we hope that all of the communities understand that they need to be ready for this one,” Hagnauer said. “Sixty percent of these guys live somewhere besides Granite City. For us, it will have an impact because it affects those guys who drive into work and stop and get coffee and doughnuts in the morning, get groceries and gas and on their way home, they may stop and eat supper at a restaurant.”
Hagnauer said he and Dunstan are finding ways to help.
“I talked to Chairman Dunstan and there were things that we were getting ready to do like job training, work force initiative through the county and other things we’ll prepare for,” the mayor said.
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