Back in September, U.S. Steel announced that it would be temporarily idling a blast furnace in Granite City, Illinois, and pointed the finger at the United Auto Workers union. At the time, leadership at the plant called the shutdown “risk mitigation” as a UAW strike softened demand for steel from automotive customers.
Fast-forward a few months, and the strike has been resolved, but things for U.S. Steel’s Granite City facility haven’t. Recently, it was revealed that the company has issued a WARN notice, citing plans to shutter steelmaking indefinitely and putting hundreds of jobs on the chopping block.
Some 265 workers were laid off when the temporary shutdown took place, and now, another 600 are expected to lose their jobs in January, blowing a massive hole in the workforce of 1,450 at the Granite City compound.
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U.S. Steel has faced challenges in recent years, and the future of the Granite City facility, particularly, has been up in the air. The company has previously made public its interest in selling blast furnaces and was even the target of a bidding war as it struggled to gain a competitive foothold.
Because of the drama surrounding it, the stated reasoning for the initial idling of the Granite City facility back in September was met with skepticism. United Steelworkers Local 1899 President Dan Simmons reportedly said that the plant wasn’t yet feeling the effects of the auto strike, and that it would take more time and more striking workers before it would.
Likewise, U.S. Rep. Nikki Budzinki, D-Ill., suggested the strike was a mere excuse for U.S. Steel, calling the effort to blame the UAW “a shameful attempt to pit working people against one another."
This week, U.S. Steel Senior Vice President and Chief Manufacturing Officer Scott Buckiso reportedly said that demand from the idled operation would be taken on at other facilities, and that rolling and finishing would still take place at Granite City, using slabs sourced from other sites.