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Steelworkers rally at congressman's office; want more trade deal debate

Dave Dowling is a sub-district director for the United Steelworkers.
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

Members of the United Steelworkers are pressing U.S. Rep. Mike Bost of southern Illinois to vote against legislation that would fast-track a multi-national trade agreement.

About 50 union members rallied Monday outside the Republican’s Belleville office.

Sub District 2 Director Dave Dowling says the effect of the Trans-Pacific Partnership could be similar to the North American Free Trade Agreement. He says that deal had a devastating impact on American manufacturing jobs.

“Fast track simply greases the skids, when these trade deals come before Congress," he told St. Louis Public Radio during the rally.

"They just make it all that much easier to be voted up or down. Because they are not considered, they are not debated, they are not amended.”

Dowling says the congressman has not made a decision on the fast track legislation that could come up this week for a vote.

The proposal also pops up as more U.S. Steel employees in the Metro East deal with layoffs because of what the union describes as “historically high levels of steel imports.”

The company’s Granite City operation is scheduled to shut down this month.

Jerry Koroby has already been laid off by U.S. Steel. He and his wife have 10 children and are doing what they can to make ends meet.

“Usually when we get tax money, we usually save it to go on vacations with the kids and do things. I basically had to sit on it and use it for bills and all that. I’m kind of running dry a little bit."

Steelworker Jerry Koroby
Credit Wayne Pratt|St. Louis Public Radio
Steelworker Jerry Koroby had been working at the Granite City plant for roughly two years before he was laid off.

Koroby has been down this road before. He was laid off by National Steel in 2003 and says it took him a decade to land another job in the industry.

"It's never easier," he said. "It's a big pressure on your chest, being a steelworker and knowing that you can't work."

He is hearing rumors that eventually workers will be called back to the steel mill in Granite City. But said even if that happens, things have to change.

"It's not just steel. It's rubber, paper - it's all kinds of things," he told St. Louis Public Radio.

"To me this economy is really in jeopardy. And if we don't do something there's going to be a lot of people out of work."

Wayne Pratt is the Broadcast Operations Manager and former morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.