Updated July 27 with comments from U.S. Steel CEO - New leadership at U.S. Steel is linking the outcome of a federal trade case to the potential resumption of steel-making at the company's Granite City plant. Chief Executive Officer David Burritt says strong action by the Trump administration following a probe into unfairly-priced steel imports could lead to further revival of the Metro East operation.
"We would turn on Granite City - a blast furnace, maybe two blast furnaces - and be as responsive as we could maybe in 10 weeks or so, depending upon how fast we could get the people on board," he told analysts during a conference call this week.
A company spokeswoman has clarified that if federal action leads to improved business conditions, and an increase in demand, Granite City could be restarted.
A United Steelworkers official tells St. Louis Public Radio that to his knowledge, it's the first time U.S. Steel has acknowledged the pending decision by the Trump administration could favorably impact Granite City
Original story from July 19:
Hundreds of Metro East steel workers are still waiting to be called back to the job in Granite City. U.S. Steel idled the plant in early 2016 and there is no indication of when the company will resume full operations.
United Steelworkers officials are organizing a rally Thursday to bring attention to what the union calls unfair international trade practices and the plight of members who have been out of work for more than a year.
"They are beaten down," USW Local 1899 President Dan Simmons told St. Louis Public Radio.
"They've done everything. The right things. They've went out and beat the pavement for jobs. The jobs just aren't out there."
Roughly 1800 people were employed at U.S. Steel Granite City Works when the company temporarily shut it down in early 2016. Roughly 620 have been called back, Simmons said.
But there is a perception that the number is higher. Many are still struggling to find other options and most of the available positions in the area do not pay nearly as much.
"They are not sustainable jobs," he said.
International trade is one of the biggest issues facing the ailing domestic steel industry. Company and union officials have repeatedly stated cheaper overseas steel has flooded the U.S. market and in many cases it has arrived at unfairly low prices. The United Steelworkers says much of that steel is coming from China.
The union wants to see more action at the federal level to deal with foreign-produced steel.
There was optimism a few months ago that President Donald Trump would take swift action to boost the domestic industry, but now that hope is fading.
"There's been a whole lot of broken promises," Simmons said.
"Promises made, obviously, and he's not followed through or this administration has not followed through at all with the campaign promises and what he said even afterwards."
There is a chance some of those promises could still be kept. The administration might issue new tariffs following a Section 232 investigation. The probe is under a seldom used 1960s era act that would allow federal action if it is determined that imports are threatening U.S. security.
Reuters recently reported that restrictions under Section 232 could negatively impact some U.S. manufacturers.
But a potential decision to implement more tariffs could be exactly what hundreds of Metro East workers have been waiting for over the past year-and-a-half.
"We've heard a lot of talk and we're ready to go," said Simmons.
"We're not asking for freebies or handouts. All we want is a level playing field."
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