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Haine wants Washington to step up for the steel industry

Illinois State Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton)
State Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton)

With U.S. Steel set to start idling operations in Granite City next week, some Metro East leaders are calling on federal lawmakers to take a tougher stance on overseas steel producers selling on the U.S. market at unfairly low prices.

The process of temporarily winding up operations at Granite City Works is expected to take a couple of months. Roughly 2,000 workers will be laid off during that time, with those job reductions expected to begin two days after Christmas.

Illinois State Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) wants help from those on Capitol Hill.

“My district is at stake and I’m desperately seeking the assistance of the United States Congress.”

During an interview this week with St. Louis Public Radio, Haine called for a review of the national tariff policy on steel goods and specific duties to be imposed on imports, much like the action undertaken by former President George W. Bush in 2001.

“Which benefited the United Steel Works in Granite City, among others,” he said.

U.S. Steel confirmed its plans late last month to temporarily shut down the Metro East plant. At the time, it said the move is part of a work force consolidation to match declining demand.

U.S. Steel in Granite City
Credit Wayne Pratt|St. Louis Public Radio
The fate of the Granite City plant has been uncertain for most of 2015.

The domestic industry has been hammered by fluctuating oil prices, depressed steel prices and what it considers to be unfairly traded imports.

The announcement followed a change of heart earlier this year. In March, U.S. Steel announced plans to temporarily shut down Granite City, only to backtrack on that decision in May.

The company was moving forward with equipment improvements at the plant, but the continuing industry downturn sparked last month’s idling announcement.

The impact will be felt beyond the U.S. Steel plant.

The United Steelworkers tells St. Louis Public Radio about 50 members and salaried employees at Stein Steel Mill Services and approximately 20 at the Tube City scrap yard operation will be affected. Both are in Granite City.

A union official admits the overall impact on employment in the community is difficult to assess, but a rule of thumb is about seven jobs are affected by each steel job that is lost.

The USW expects the Granite City plant to eventually reopen, but there is no timeline for that to take place.

The community bounced back from a similar move in 2008.

But earlier this year, Granite City Mayor Ed Hagnauer told St. Louis Public Radio the impact could be more devastating this time.

That is partly because U.S. Steel had already shutdown coke ovens in Granite City, which left more than 175 people out of work.

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