In the two weeks since US Steel announced its plans to cease operations in Granite City, Madison County officials are looking at how the closure will impact its workforce and communities.
“We may not know everything that is happening just yet,” Chairman Kurt Prenzler said. “But what we do know is this closure will be a loss for Madison County. The impact this will have on the workforce, their families and local communities will be felt throughout the Metro East.”
On June 28, U.S. Steel announced its plans to sell and repurpose the blast furnaces at its Granite City Works facility. The company signed a non-binding letter of intent with SunCoke Energy Inc., a raw material processing and handling company, to acquire the two blast furnaces and construct a new 2-million-ton facility to produce pig iron.
It will take approximately two years to complete the new facility, which will end all steelmaking operations and at that point officials expect the majority of workers will be laid off.
The United Steelworkers Union reported as many as 1,400 workers could be laid off from the mill. US Steel would need 100 to maintain a small coating operation and SunCoke could hire around 400, leaving 900 workers without jobs.
“The thought of losing a job is stressful,” Prenzler said. “Although there may be some workers hired by SunCoke, it’s not even half the workforce that is expected to be let go. We want workers to know there is help to include finding out about the current job market or preparing to change career paths.”
Madison County and the state will offer services once workers are laid off, however Prenzler said employees can reach out now to Madison County Employment and Training Department to get a look at the job market and also get help with resume writing.
The Employment and Training Department offers assistance to employees during layoff transitions.
Director of Employment and Training Tony Fuhrmann said the objective of the services is to help workers transition from notification of layoff to re-employment as quickly as possible. He said the county’s role when US Steel does announce layoffs will be to offer retraining of its workforce or assist in finding them other jobs.
Prenzler said there are current opportunities in the county for those seeking another job.
“Alton Steel-ASI has 51 job openings and World Wide Technology needs to fill 300 positions,” Prenzler said.
Alton Steel’s starting pay is $18 per hour, with an increase in two months to $19, and a total employee compensation packages (health, dental and overtime) that is equivalent to $47/hour. WWT is paying $18-25/hr to experienced workers.
Visit Madison County Employment and Training www.co.madison.il.us/departments/employment_and_training/index.php to find out more.
Director of Madison County Mental Health Board Deborah Humphrey said although the announcement of the closure provides as much time as possible for the workforce to prepare for transition, it doesn’t prepare them for the emotional ups and downs.
“Coping with a job loss can negatively impact mental health,” Humphrey said. “Coping with unemployment is difficult and can lead to anxiety, depression, and isolation. Job loss can create financial pressures and adversities that create family stress and difficulties.”
Humphrey said two mental health board-funded community mental health centers — Centerstone of Illinois and Chestnut Health System — can assist with counseling as well as a number of other mental health and community providers.
Visit www.centerstone.org or call (618) 462-2331; or www.chestnut.org or call (618) 877-4420.