There’s Joy in Granite City, Ill., Where 500 Steelworkers are Heading Back to Work

Jeffrey Bonior

Jeffrey Bonior Researcher/ Writer, Alliance for American Manufacturing

Anticipating action on imports, U.S. Steel announces it will restart a blast furnace.

It was quite a scene at the United Steelworkers Local 1899 union hall in Granite City, Ill., on Wednesday morning. As local president Dan Simmons put it, “it’s chaos around here. But it’s welcome chaos.”

The frenzy percolated after an announcement by U.S.  Steel Corporation President David B. Burritt that the company will call back to work about 500 Granite City Works employees who have been laid off since December 2015. This action is a direct result of President Trump’s intention to finally act to combat foreign steel imports, Burritt told CNBC.

“It’s awesome and long overdue welcome news,” Simmons said. “These people, the members and this community have been hurting for long enough. It’s great news. We’ve been waiting for this for two years and three months since we’ve been idled.

“We have the opportunity now to show them what we can do here.”

Granite City Works employed approximately 1,800 steelworkers when it was idled because of poor market conditions. The culprit? Foreign steel products being dumped into the U.S. market. Many of the foreign steel importing countries, including China, heavily subsidize their steel industries. That makes it impossible for America’s steelmakers to remain competitive.

Trump announced last week that he plans to place a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum. The official announcement is expected to come on Thursday.

That was welcome news in Granite City.

“It really kicked off around here when the president made the announcement about tariffs last week,” said Simmons. “We were worried but optimistically skeptic. I expected this once the Commerce Department made its ruling and handed it to him. Once we got the announcement of some tariffs, I felt that would be enough to push us over the edge.”

U.S. Steel will restart one of its two blast furnaces at the integrated Granite City mill, allowing it to resume full steelmaking capabilities. As of this week, about 700 workers remain employed at the mill, running minimum operations including the finishing of steel slabs produced at other U.S. Steel facilities.

Simmons’s phone has been ringing off the hook as laid-off employees who have not yet retired or moved on to other jobs are calling to find out if the rumors — which had been circulating in Granite City since Monday — were true.

“The members have all been around here and are exuberant,” said Simmons. “I feel like I’ve talked to 500 members.

“I had a guy come up here late last night. He snuck up the stairs and I said, ‘who’s coming up here this late’ and the next thing you know he peeked his head in the office and said, ‘tell me that the rumor is true.’ I told him that I heard they were supposed to announce this and he looked at me with a big grin on his face and came up and hugged me. This is a guy that doesn’t hug people. He said it’s the best news he’s heard in a long time. He’s been on his fourth job since he’s been idled. He was overwhelmed. He was elated.”

While all the details have yet to be worked out on the restart, it is expected to take up to four months to get all the workers back on the job making steel with the mill’s “B” blast furnace. Granite City’s “A” blast furnace will remain idled for now. Simmons said that if the “A” blast furnace was also restarted in the future, the mill could add another 300 to 400 workers.

“Theses 500 employees, pretty much with what we have with those that remain on layoff status, will help this community greatly,” Simmons said. “I can’t imagine none of our laid-off guys not having an opportunity to come back. So, it’s great news.”

***

This has been reposted from the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

Mr. Bonior began his writing career as a reporter and copy editor in 1977 at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. He later wrote copy as a voice-over talent in Delray Beach, Florida. Mr. Bonior was born in Detroit to an active, pro-manufacturing, pro-union family, and is a veteran of numerous political and initiative campaigns.

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Alliance for American Manufacturing

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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