Am I Next? U.S. Steel idles blast furnaces and commences major layoff.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based United States Steel Corporation, one of the largest integrated steel producers in the United States, has announced that it will be laying off approximately 200 workers in its Great Lakes, Michigan mill. The layoffs will include plant activities from blast furnaces to finishing operations. The decision was conditioned on lower steel prices, reduced demand, tariffs and competition with foreign steel providers. Demand from automakers, farm and heavy equipment manufacturers has impacted the company’s operations. While the company is not labeling the layoffs as being permanent, they are expected to last beyond six months, which for skilled employees is nearly the same as a permanent layoff.

Am I Next? Blast Furnance.

If the market continues to crater, it is likely that layoffs will extend to the company’s steel works in Gary, Indiana, its largest plant in the United States. In June, 2019 the company announced that it was idling two blast furnaces, one out of three at Great Lakes and one out of four in Gary in addition to one in Europe (Serbia).

Idling a blast furnace is not a trivial undertaking as it is expensive and can damage critical made-to-order furnace components. Few people have any idea of the size and scale of a blast furnace.

Politicians in Indiana are trying to retain jobs by offering up a $47 million dollar tax break if the company invests $750 million to upgrade Gary’s aging facilities and maintain an employment level at 3,875 workers.

U.S. Steel also plans to idle East Chicago Tin located in East Chicago, Indiana and laying an estimated 150 workers.

There is little doubt that tariffs on steel products and the reduction in crop production is resulting in a reduction in a corresponding reduction in tin can production. So it should come as no surprise that U.S. Steel would consolidate their tin mill products.

According to a company spokesperson, "Following extensive market analysis of our global competitiveness in light of high levels of low-priced imported tin mill products entering the United States, we have decided to consolidate our current tin mill products production from three to two facilities, idling our East Chicago, Indiana, facility by mid-November 2019. Our goal is to place as many East Chicago Tin employees as possible at other nearby U. S. Steel facilities."

Change is coming. There will always be a tomorrow, no matter how much you may try to ignore it. There are no guarantees in life, or promises for a bright future. Just because something bad hasn't happened yet, doesn't mean it won't. It can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere ... are you now wondering, Am I Next?