Metro-East News

Cardboard car race at Gateway Motorsports to benefit idled Steelworkers

The Granite City Rotary Club will host a fundraiser for steelworkers who were laid off last year.

The “Community Rally at the Raceway” will run from 6-9 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 3. Entrance begins at 5 p.m., and tickets are $20.

Funds from the rally will go to the labor liaison at the United Way, which helps idled steelworkers most commonly with food and bill payments, said Dan Simmons, the president of Local 1899, which represents more than 1,000 of the roughly 1,600 workers in the mill.

“We’re hoping we’re going to see a nice crowd there,” Simmons said, adding that he’d like to see a couple of hundred people there.

“There are no ear plugs needed” for the race, according to a press release from Gateway Motorsports.

Instead of real cars, sponsored vehicles made from cardboard will move around the track by the role of some dice, like an oval board game.

The “phantom cars” will race six heats and a championship race.

Simmons ran a similar event back in 2008, another time when the mill was idled, but he couldn’t attend.

Jason Chism, the president of Local 50, which represents more than 500 who also work in mill operations, remembers the 2008 idling. No idled time is good, but back then, he said, the whole country was going through a rough patch. This time around is much worse.

Chism, who had worked at the mill for 20 years, is optimistic that “we’ll get to a better place,” but some workers have had to move on from their careers at the plant. Some have gotten their CDL license to become truck-drivers. Others have gone to vocational school for retraining. Some more have found employment in warehouses.

Many jobs, however, just don’t pay “family-sustaining wages,” he said.

When asked about whether there are any plans for similar events like the Raceway rally, he said, “right now, we’re just focusing on this event.”

Joe Schuler, one of the event organizers, is a lifelong Granite City resident, he said.

“(I) know how much the Steelworkers have done for our community,” he said. “The USW has donated millions to local charities like Good Samaritan House, Phoenix Crisis Center and the United Way. I felt like it was time for us as a community (to) help (those) who have so greatly helped us.”

People interested in going to the event can buy tickets through or through the GCS Credit Union, one of the sponsors.

Casey Bischel: 618-239-2655, @CaseyBischel