More closings and layoffs are coming to the U.S. Steel Granite City mill in Southern Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. They're the latest bad news for a part of the country that has seen once thriving manufacturing operations downsize, or close their doors completely.
It’s all part of US Steel’s plan to consolidate its North American flat-rolled steel operations, as the industry deals with falling prices, slowing demand and competition from other places like China. The industry has also been hit hard by falling oil prices that have drillers holding off on buying new equipment.
The Granite City operations have been a target for cuts as U.S. Steel, the nation’s number two producer, tries to get costs in line. In January the company said it would idle two pipe plants, temporarily close one of two blast furnaces, and completely close the coke production facility at the location.
All the closings and idling add up to nearly 1000 jobs lost. Doug May, a trustee of U.S. Steelworkers Union 1899, has worked at the Granite City mill for more than 40 years. He told the Tribune, surrounding communities will be hit hard, “These are great, family supporting jobs,” May said. “With it being one of the biggest employers in the Metro East, I think it will have a big impact throughout the St. Louis region.”
The “temporary” tag giving by U.S. Steel to this closing is very vague, and the union, employees and communities are holding out hope that things could change for the better in the next 60 days, and the layoffs would be canceled.
The strong dollar and weaker foreign currencies have led to a surge in steel imports. So far in 2015, imports are up 33% from 28% in 2014, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. Meanwhile, domestic steel operations are running at about 70% capacity, the lowest since 2009.