Madison County prepares to help steelworkers

WOOD RIVER – In the two weeks since US Steel announced its intention to cease operations in Granite City, Madison County officials are examining the impact of the closure on its workforce and communities.

“We may not know everything that’s going on yet,” Chairman Kurt Prenzler said. “But what we do know is that 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 Eastern Metropolitan Region.

On June 28, US Steel announced plans to sell and repurpose blast furnaces at its Granite City Works plant. The company has signed a non-binding letter of intent with SunCoke Energy Inc., a raw materials processing and handling company, to acquire the two blast furnaces and build a new 2 million ton facility to produce pig iron .

It will take around two years to complete the new facility, which will bring all steelmaking operations to an end and by that time officials expect the majority of workers to be laid off.

The United Steelworkers Union reported that up to 1,400 workers could be laid off from the plant. US Steel would need 100 people to maintain a small coating operation and SunCoke could hire about 400, leaving 900 workers out of work.

“The thought of losing a job is stressful,” Prenzler said. “While there may be workers hired by SunCoke, not even half of the workforce should be laid off. We want workers to know there is help to learn about the current job market or prepare to change careers. »

Madison County and the state will offer services once workers are laid off, but Prenzler said employees can now contact the Madison County Department of Employment and Training for job market insights and also get help with resume writing.

The Employment and Training Department offers assistance to employees during dismissal transitions.

Employment and training director Tony Fuhrmann said the aim of the services is to help workers move from redundancy notification to re-employment as quickly as possible. He said the county’s role when US Steel announces layoffs will be to offer retraining of its workforce or help it find other jobs.

Prenzler said there are currently opportunities in the county for those looking for alternate employment.

“Alton Steel-ASI has 51 vacancies and World Wide Technology needs to fill 300 positions,” Prenzler said.

Alton Steel’s starting salary is $18 per hour, with a two-month increase to $19, and total employee compensation (health, dental, and overtime) equals $47 per hour .

WWT pays $18-25 per hour to experienced workers.

Visit Madison County Employment and Training to learn more.

Madison County Mental Health Board Director Deborah Humphrey said while the closure announcement gives the workforce as much time as possible to prepare for the transition, it doesn’t prepare them for the highs. and emotional lows.

“Dealing with job loss can have a negative impact on 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 stress and family difficulties.

Humphrey said two mental health board-funded community mental health centers — Centerstone of Illinois and Chestnut Health System — can help with counseling as well as a number of other mental health and community providers. Visit or call 618-462-2331; or or call 618-877-4420

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