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6/8/2018  U.S. Steel to restart second furnace in Granite City, hire 300 employees


Granite City Steel prepares to reopen plant

U.S. Steel Corp. says it will restart the second of two shuttered blast furnaces at its Granite City mill and hire 300 employees.
The decision by the Pittsburgh-based company follows a March announcement that it would restart the other blast furnace at the Granite City Works in the Metro East and recall 500 workers. U.S. Steel laid off hundreds of workers when it idled the furnaces in late 2015, with employment at the nearly 2,000 worker plant dipping as low as 100 in the ensuing two years.
The company says the restart of the first furnace is in progress and that the second furnace should be in operation around Oct. 1. After the two restarts are complete, about 1,500 people will work at the plant, U.S. Steel says.
“We are excited to announce that after the restart of the ‘A’ blast furnace on or around Oct. 1, all of the steelmaking operations at Granite City will be back on line, helping us meet an increased demand for American-made steel that has only grown since our March announcement,” U.S. Steel President and CEO David Burritt said in a statement. “After careful consideration of market conditions and customer demand ... the restart of the two blast furnaces at Granite City Works will allow us to serve our customers’ growing demand for high quality products melted and poured in the United States.”
The first newly made steel in over two years came out of the plant on Tuesday, said Tom Ryan, an official with United Steelworkers Local 1899. He said the plant is close to hiring the 500 people U.S. Steel said it would hire in March. Many of them are experienced workers who have been waiting for the plant to restart, but Ryan said some former employees moved on during the long outage.
“Everybody who was out there waiting for recall has been recalled,” he said. “We’re hiring off the street now and working diligently to do that.”
The plant never totally idled. From March 2017 to March 2018, between 700 and 800 workers were employed at the plant, according to Granite City Economic Development Director James Amos.
The blast furnace announcements follow President Donald Trump’s moves to impose tariffs on all imported steel and aluminum this year. The Commerce Department in 2016 had slapped duties on imported steel from some countries, including China, Italy and other Asian nations after complaints they were selling steel at below-market prices. Trump announced in February a 25 percent tariff on all imported steel.
Last week, Trump said that the U.S. allies of Canada, the European Union and Mexico would no longer be exempted from the tariffs, sparking anger from allies and prompting retaliatory tariffs on other American exports.
The Granite City Works restart also comes as oil prices have recovered to levels not seen since early 2015. The plant had been a big supplier of steel for pipes and tubes used in the domestic energy industry, which slowed sharply amid the precipitous drop in energy prices starting in mid-2014.
Ryan, the union official, said the drop in the oil industry business “is probably what put us down in 2015.”
“I’m sure the tariffs are helping,” he said. “I’m sure the oil is helping.”