Steel Workers Left in the Dark

As notice of Gerdau Ameristeel’s plans to indefinitely idle the Sand Springs mill were delivered to city and state officials, workers were left guessing their fate.
Gerdau employee Adam Belty says he’s been left in the dark and that although his boss received notice, he did not.
“I’m still working as normal for now,” he said. “I haven’t been told anything. It would really be nice to know something.”
A letter sent to Sand Springs Mayor Bob Walker and the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission announced that the entire plant will be idled or closed on an indefinite basis, effective Oct. 17. The notice is required 60 days’ in advance of a closure under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, called the WARN Act. The federal law requires employers to give advance notification to workers faced with layoffs.
Union representatives are meeting with company officials during the next couple of days to discuss the effects of idling the mill, said Andy Frye, the union’s regional sub-director.
The conversations could include talk about severance, he said, but he does not know when employees will be notified.
Chris McGuire, who has worked at Gerdau since 1997, said he has turned down job offers because he is counting on a severance from Gerdau but he worries he is making the wrong choice.
“That’s what’s aggravating: not knowing,” he said.
The WARN notification comes the week after Gerdau representatives, along with the local United Steelworkers, met with the Commerce and Treasury departments in Oklahoma City to review a state proposal aimed at keeping the Sand Springs mill operational.
Because negotiations are ongoing, the proposal is not open to the public, but Gerdau Vice President Terry Sutter said it offers Gerdau financial incentives.
Gerdau officials say the company still plans to review and analyze the proposal to determine whether it will make the mill viable for the long term, Sutter said.
A final decision about whether to maintain operations in Sand Springs has not been made, he added.
House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa, said the state will continue to try and help the company find ways to reopen the mill and keep it viable for the long term.
“We’re still planning on working with the company on a potential proposal,” Benge said.
The state’s proposal was a response to the company’s June decision to close a mill in Perth Amboy, N.J., idle one in Sayreville, N.J., and consider closing the Sand Springs operation because the slumping economy had weakened demand for steel products.
The company announced two weeks ago that it would no longer idle the mill in Sayreville but would proceed with the closure in Perth Amboy.
City Manager Doug Enevoldsen could not be reached for comment Tuesday.



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