After two years of silence, a Granite City steelmaking factory will roar back to life due to President Donald Trump's action on imported steel, according to the U.S. Steel corporation.
The U.S. Steel Corp. announced Wednesday it will restart one of two blast furnaces and steelmaking facilities at Granite City Works. The company anticipates calling back about 500 employees in March.
In a press release, the company said the change is due to an anticipated demand for steel in the United States due to Trump's announcement Thursday that the federal government would impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports.
"Our Granite City Works facility and employees, as well as the surrounding community, have suffered too long from the unending waves of unfairly traded steel products that have flooded U.S. markets," said U.S. Steel president and CEO David B. Burritt. "The Section 232 action announced by President Trump last week recognizes the significant threat steel imports pose to our national and economic security."
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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.
"Together, we are committed to ensuring the steel industry remains a fundamental part of American manufacturing because American manufacturing is stronger with American-made steel," Burritt said in the press release.
The company expects to provide information on the anticipated financial impact of the restart as more details on the president's executive order become available for analysis in the coming days.
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, who is a co-chairman of the congressional steel caucus, applauded the announcement Tuesday.
"This is a big victory for the hard-working steel families in Granite City and the entire metro-east economy," Bost said in a statement. "I was heartbroken by the plant’s idling. Not only did I hear you, I took your fight to the Halls of Congress to combat unfair and illegal trade practices that have hurt American steelworkers."
Bost added, "Through bipartisan legislation, we empowered the Department of Commerce to help American companies and workers respond rapidly to illegally-traded imports, but more needed to be done. That's why I helped advance efforts for the Section 232 investigation and took the case of Southern Illinois' steelworkers directly to President Trump as he was deliberating its findings and recommendations. But we're not done. We still have more work to do, because I have no doubt in my mind that the American steelworker is second to none when competing on equal footing."
Burritt, the U.S. Steel CEO, said Bost "has been a champion for battling unfair trade and reviving steelmaking at Granite City. He’s been a vocal, aggressive leader for America’s steel industry. We appreciate his advocacy throughout the Trump Administration’s Section 232 national security investigation of steel imports."
U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, applauded Wednesday's news and said it is a positive step.
"This is welcome news for Granite City and the hundreds of steelworkers who are going back to work after being laid off before Christmas two years ago," Duckworth said in a statement. "We have a long way to go to keep manufacturing jobs in this country and reverse the trend of factories shuttering or reducing production of American steel. I will continue to support policies and legislation that strengthen our national security and protect American jobs to ensure hardworking Illinoisans are able to provide for their families."
Madison County Chairman Kurt Prenzler said restarting even one of the furnaces "is not just good for the steel industry, but good for Madison County."
The United Steelworkers union, however, is endorsing Democrat St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly, who is running in the March primary in hope of facing off against Bost in the November general election in the 12th Congressional 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."