GRANITE CITY — About 200 steel industry supporters and steel workers gathered at Civic Park Friday to protest the recent flood of imported steel from South Korea because it jeopardizes jobs within the city's largest employer.
The United Steelworkers Local 1899 in Granite City, which represents most of the 2,500 employees at U.S. Steel's plant in Granite City, organized the rally because the South Korean steel imported into this country is sold below market value, making it difficult for U.S. steel mills to compete.
Local leaders from the United Steelworkers of America and lawmakers spoke on behalf of protecting domestic steel and the jobs in the industry.
United Steelworkers of America Sub District 2 Director Dave Dowling said lawmakers need to enforce trade laws and keep out cheap imported steel.
"Does the will exist in this country that we will have a national policy that supports and enforces trade laws that will ensure that we can compete on a level playing field?" Dowling asked. "And what's at stake in this community is whether the opportunities that have been available to the workers at this Granite City facility for 135 years will be available in the future for our children."
Rick Veitch, general manager of U.S. Steel-Granite City Works, said it is important to do what can be done to help preserve the jobs at the Granite City steel mill. He said he remembers the steel plant's shutdown in 2009 and how it hurt families and other businesses in the city. He said he does not want to witness that again.
"We provide good-paying, family-sustaining jobs here at U.S. Steel and want to continue to provide world-class, high-quality, American-made products to our market," Veitch said. "Unfortunately, we cannot compete in an unfair market. We need our trade laws enforced to make the playing field level. Because of the people of Granite City and all of U.S. Steel, we can compete and we can win with anyone in the world. And only if the rules are clear and the field is level."
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, whose district includes Madison County, said, "What we see happening is wrong. Foreign steel should not come to America to create jobs in foreign countries. American steel creates jobs."
Fellow U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, led the crowd in a chant: "What are we here to support? American steel! Who are we here to support? American workers!"
"We have the answers," Enyart said. "We have the answers that need to be heard in Washington, the answers that need to be heard in the capitals of countries that are shipping in inferior, underpriced steel to our great nation."
Contact reporter Will Buss at email@example.com or 239-2526.