United Steelworkers (USW)
Peter Trinidad, Vice President
USW Local Union 6787
ArcelorMital Plate Mills
At Gary and Burns Harbor, Indiana
Before The U.S. International Trade Commission
ITC CUT-TO-LENGTH PLATE SUNSET HEARING
October 19, 2011
Good morning. My name is Peter Trinidad and I am Vice President of United Steelworkers Local Union 6787. I represent the steelworkers employed at ArcelorMittal’s Gary and Burns Harbor plate facilities. I started out as a millwright at the plate mill 16 years ago, and I have been an officer of the local for the last 11 years. I appreciate the opportunity to testify before you today on behalf of all the Steelworkers who make cut-to-length plate. I especially want to recognize all of my fellow steelworkers in the back of the room who are here today to let you know just how important this case is to them.
The last decade has been a real roller coaster ride for our members who make cut-to-length plate. They have been casualties of the unfairly traded imports of plate. They have faced bankruptcies, plant closures, layoffs, forced retirements, lost wages, and reductions in pension and health care benefits.
Our members made many sacrifices to ensure there would be a healthy steel industry with jobs for our members, and benefits and dignity for our retirees. We agreed to the consolidation of the steel companies, major workforce reductions and changes in workplace rules to increase productivity and lower costs. The steelworkers have done everything possible to put the industry in a position to succeed and to make sure the companies did their part as well. These efforts saved plate mill jobs at Burns Harbor by allowing Bethlehem Steel to become part of ISG and finally to merge into ArcelorMittal. But neither the union nor the companies could control unfair trade that injured the domestic plate industry. These cases have been a necessary part of creating the market conditions that allowed us to succeed.
With these trade cases in place, our plate operations benefited from that sacrifice when demand for plate recovered. As you know, however, things changed almost overnight in late 2008. Demand evaporated, and production just crashed. ArcelorMittal closed the Gary mill in October 2008, and it remains closed today. The company also shut down the Burns Harbor 110 inch mill again in October 2008. In November 2008, ArcelorMittal gave a WARN Act notice that they intended to lay off nearly 2,500 at the Burns Harbor facility.
Instead, the Steelworkers worked with the company to implement a layoff minimization plan. As a result, ArcelorMittal rescinded the WARN Act notice, fewer than 500 people were laid off, and 900 workers went on 32-hour weeks so that we could keep 20 percent more steelworkers on the job. It was tough for our people to take those layoffs and salary cuts after all the sacrifices they had already made. People again started dipping back into what was left of their savings and trying to survive paycheck to paycheck. The remaining plate mill at Burns Harbor was running less than half full. Many of us wondered whether it would close too. Every day, I saw the huge financial and human toll on our workers and their families.
Fortunately, plate orders gradually picked up in 2010. In May 2010, the layoff minimization program ended, but the steelworkers again sacrificed and agreed to have their incentive payments cut in half. In May of this year, ArcelorMittal reopened the 110 inch plate mill and brought some people back to work. As a result, the company hired about 60 new people this spring.
In August, a second crew was hired for the 110 inch mill in anticipation of plate demand growth, but that new demand has not developed as we had hoped. Prices and orders actually appear to be dropping, so the extra crew is not producing plate and has been given other job assignments throughout the mill.
I am not sure when the second crew will be back on the 110 inch mill because the production schedule is looking worse, not better, as far as I can tell. We are all worried that the market will slip backward toward 2009 levels, and the way the customers seem to be ordering right now, I’d say they are concerned too.
Every ton of dumped plate that is allowed to enter our market is a ton of plate that steelworkers at Burns Harbor won’t get to make. It will also likely mean that every ton we do make will sell for less. The 110 inch mill will face closure again. We’ll see layoffs and reduced hour and pay.
A lot of our people are new hires who don’t have the three years of service for a 40 hour week guarantee under our contract. They will be the first to suffer. Steelworkers laid off with less than two years service won’t be eligible for supplemental benefits. I really don’t know where these people will be able to find comparable jobs in this economy.
The Steelworkers at our plate mills are proud men and women who work hard to produce steel plates. They have sacrificed tremendously over the last decade to help build a competitive plate industry. I urge you not to allow unfairly traded imports to re-enter this market and tear down what we have built.
- Click Here for a downloadable copy of his testimony.
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