(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Steel Corp., the nation’s third-largest steelmaker, announced it’s in talks to permanently end steel production at its century-old furnaces in Illinois.
The more than 120-year-old Pittsburgh-based company plans to sell the two blast furnaces at its Granite City Works facility to SunCoke Energy for an undisclosed amount to propel the use of so-called pig iron, a raw material needed to make steel in its mini mills. Transitioning the facility to produce the raw material from steelmaking will take until 2024 and would result in the loss of up to 1,000 jobs, according to the company.
Following the implementation of then-President Donald Trump’s divisive 25% duties on imported steel, Granite City became the backdrop for a speech in July 2018 after the company restarted one of the steel furnaces. He proclaimed the furnaces there were “blazing bright” after years of “cutbacks” in the American industry. Workers were called back in to the jobs they lost. Almost four years later, the entire plant is poised to halt all steel production.
“In its announcement regarding Granite City’s future, the company callously failed to mention a word about the massive job loss or impact the decision will have on a skilled and loyal workforce, their families or their community,” United Steelworkers President Tom Conway said in a statement from the union. “It is another tale in a long string of betrayals by the company.”
U.S. Steel spokesperson Amanda Malkowski said the potential deal hasn’t been finalized, but they may reach an agreement by mid-summer. U.S. Steel is increasingly transitioning operations to pig iron as it expands its mini-mill steel production and transitions away from traditional integrated mills that date back to industrialist Andrew Carnegie.
Much of the workforce at U.S. Steel’s mini mills includes non-unionized workers, which is in stark contrast to the many United Steelworkers represented at its existing traditional mills. The union said it has no intention of becoming pig iron suppliers to the non-union steelmaking operations.
The United Steelworkers’ contract with U.S. Steel is set to expire this September, and the union said the company should prepare itself for those discussions.
“People are mad and disappointed,” United Steelworkers’ Conway said when reached by phone. “They’re scared when these things happen.”
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