Company, union have differing views of why Granite City steel mill is idling furnace

United States Steel Corp., the owner of the steel mill in Granite City, said Monday in a quarterly report that a blast furnace in the plant would be “temporarily” idled in response to the United Auto Workers’ strike that began Friday.

But the president of United Steelworkers Local 1899, the union that represents the Granite City workers, rejected the blame for the furnace’s idling on the auto workers’ strike, according to a report by KSDK-Channel 5.

“Our order book here was solid,” Dan Simmons told the television station. “It kind of caught us all off guard. They’re looking at disruptions down the road. They had this planned for a while.”

Simmons also told KSDK the layoffs could affect 300 to 350 of the plant’s 1,300 workers.

The company statement did not say how many workers would be laid off, and a company representative could not be reached for comment Monday.

“Today’s guidance also reflects the expected impact on third quarter financial results from the United Autoworkers union strike announced earlier this month,” U.S. Steel said in its statement. “Consistent with actions taken in 2022 to balance our melt capacity with our order book, we will temporarily idle blast furnace ‘B’ at Granite City Works and are reallocating volumes to other domestic facilities to efficiently meet customer demand.”

Simmons said in a statement on the union’s Facebook page that the “B” furnace is the “primary operation” of the Granite City plant.

His statement also said the union was meeting with the company “to put together a layoff minimization plan per the contract.”

Last year, Granite City steel workers were concerned about jobs being lost when U.S. Steel announced a plan to sell two blast furnaces to SunCoke Energy Inc., a raw materials handling company.

The Associated Press reported that about 13,000 of the UAW’s 146,000 workers went on strike at assembly plants in Wentzville, Missouri; Wayne, Michigan; and Toledo, Ohio.

The auto workers’ demands include wage increases and a 32-hour week with 40 hours of pay while the automakers are earning profits but the leaders of Ford, GM and Chrysler are concerned about labor costs while they build electric vehicles at the same time as making gas-powered cars, according to The AP.