What’s The Deal With US Steel?

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What’s The Deal With US Steel?

An aerial view of Granite City Steel Works in Granite City, Illinois.

An aerial view of Granite City Steel Works in Granite City, Illinois.

Ira Block

An aerial view of Granite City Steel Works in Granite City, Illinois.

Ira Block

Ira Block

An aerial view of Granite City Steel Works in Granite City, Illinois.

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US Steel is an essential part of Granite City, but unfortunately, the Granite City US Steel plant has laid off many workers since the end of May 2015. It has been sitting idle for several months now, and over 2500 workers have lost their jobs.

Chris Proffitt has been working at US Steel for eight years as a desulf operator, but he was laid off in October 2015 due to his low seniority. He wanted to find a new job quickly because he was worried about supporting his family.

I don’t think it will ever be what it was.”

— Jim Stanley

“I chose truck driving because I knew that I would get hired somewhere rather quickly. I went to a four week training program in order to get my CDL. Now I am employed at USF Holland.” Proffitt adds, “It was difficult to find a job because a lot of people are afraid to hire US Steel employees in fear of them going back if the plant opens up again.”

Les Fear, an electrician at US Steel for 26 years, said, “It has been really difficult looking for a new job. They say they do not discriminate about your age, but after taking all the tests and passing them, they all go another direction after a face-to-face interview.”

Jim Stanley, an electrician at US Steel for 17 years, said, “It has been very stressful adjusting to about a 50% pay cut and losing medical benefits.”

Many of the employees are deeply saddened by the potential permanent closing of the plant. John Strowmatt, labor gang technician at US Steel for 26 years, said, “It’s so sad. So many lives will be changed forever. Those kinds of good paying jobs may be lost for good.” Les Fear added, “A lot of good people are really in trouble.”

Some of the workers have chosen to cut ties with US Steel while others are still hoping for the plant to call them back.

Jim Stanley said, “I would rather move on with another company that’s more stable than the steel industry. However, I have five years of call back right that I will keep.” Chris Proffitt said, “I plan to cut ties because they will probably cut operations in half if they open back up. I wouldn’t get called back anyway due to my low seniority.”

Granite City is held afloat by US Steel, and now that the mill is sitting idle, the city is suffering. “Smaller businesses are suffering from the flow of 1800 employees no longer coming through the city,” said Jim Stanley.

“The tax revenue that they have lost cannot be replaced until the mill goes back on line fully,” added Les Fear. US Steel offers crucial tax dollars to our local school district, and now our schools mights have to cut even more programs because of the plant being closed.

The future of US Steel is unclear, but many are hopeful that it will reopen soon. “I hope they start back up again, but I can’t worry about US Steel right now. I’m just trying to focus on my new job,” said John Strowmatt. Jim Stanley said, “I do think the mill will reopen but at a much smaller capacity. I don’t think it will ever be what it was.”

Daniel Simmons, president of United Steelworkers Local, recently spoke at the educational walkthrough for GCHS. He explained that US Steel was in the process of suing China for illegally importing steel. There are speculations that the plant could reopen after the court case is over, but that could take months or even years. Nobody really knows what is going to happen because US Steel management will not say anything.

Granite City families and businesses are suffering because of this lay off. Some families are even losing their homes and vehicles because they aren’t receiving enough money to pay their bills. All we can hope for is that the steel industry turns around and US Steel can start again.