Steel company layoffs in Granite City
It's not known whether tariffs on steel imports will lead to people going back to work at Granite City Works, but the move was applauded by a Republican congressman, as well as the parent company of the idled steel mill.
Politically, the move might not be enough for the Republican congressman to get support from local steelworkers.
President Donald Trump on Thursday announced the federal government would impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports.
The decision comes after a Department of Commerce investigation into whether steel imports are hurting national security.
The tariffs are planned to go into place next week, according to reports.
U.S. Steel idled Granite City Steel in late 2015 leading to the layoff of 2,000 workers. About 200 of those jobs came back last year, when U.S. Steel had planned outages to carry out upgrades at other plants around the country.
U.S. Steel Corp. President and CEO David Burritt said tariffs on foreign steel were past due.
"Having been somebody that has global views and believes in free trade, we know when it’s completely unfair," Burritt said during a meeting with Trump at the White House on Thursday. "We are not protectionists. We want a level playing field. It's for our employees; to support our customers. And when we get this right, it will be great for the United States of America. We have to get this done."
U.S. Steel would not comment on whether the tariffs would allow for more workers to be brought back to the company's Granite City operation.
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, who is a co-chairman of the congressional steel caucus, applauded the decision.
"I'm very encouraged by President Trump's critically important decision," Bost said. "As the Department of Commerce Section 232 investigation indicated, the domestic industry has suffered greatly at the hands of global steel overcapacity and unfair trade, which threatens our national security interests. We've seen the harm that unfair and illegal trade practices have done to our steel industry right in Madison County, with the idling of Granite City Works and layoffs at Alton Steel. Today's announcement is a bold step forward to stop unfair trade practices so American steelworkers can continue to make American steel that supports our military, critical infrastructure, and the livelihoods of American families."
Bost recently spoke about the struggles of Granite City workers during a meeting with Trump at the White House.
Politically, Bost's efforts don’t appear to be enough for the steelworkers union representing workers at the mill.
The United Steelworkers are endorsing Democratic St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly, who is Bost's likely opponent in the November general election.
"Mike Bost voted to allow bad trade deals that hurt American workers. He betrayed us," said USW District 7 Director Mike Millsap. "The USW will never forget that. Bost has been all talk, no action, and votes how he's told. That's why the United Steelworkers are proud to support Brendan Kelly, who will be a strong and independent voice for every worker in the 12th District."
Kelly said both major parties are responsible for steelworkers feeling left behind.
"For 20 years, steelworkers have been laid off and abandoned and our national security weakened because politicians from both parties have been more concerned about stock prices than people," Kelly said. "Steelworkers forged Southern Illinois. It's time to fire it up, and get our brothers and sisters back to work. With USW's support, the Kelly Coalition is now as strong as American steel."
Kelly's endorsement didn't faze Bost supporters.
Bost spokesman George O'Connor touted the the work the congressman has done for steelworkers.
"Put politics aside and look at Mike Bost's record of fighting for America's steelworkers," O'Connor said. "He's led efforts in Congress to combat unfair and illegal foreign trade practices. He's chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Steel Caucus. And just two weeks ago, he brought the plight of Southern Illinois' steelworkers directly to President Trump, who has now announced a 25 percent tariff on steel imports. This isn't about politics, it's about getting results for Granite City Works and Alton Steel."
Thomas J. Gibson, president and CEO of the American Iron and Steel Institute, said Bost has been a leader for the steel industry and its workers.
"Congressman Bost knows first-hand that unfair foreign trade has caused a surge in imports which has resulted in idled plants, like Granite City, and lost jobs," Gibson said. "He wants to put the people of Illinois back to work, and has been a vocal and aggressive champion for steel in the U.S. House."