Budzinski, Durbin, Duckworth Demand Answers from Nippon Steel on Commitments to Granite City

Dec 22, 2023
Economy
Labor
Press

SPRINGFIELD, IL — This week, Congresswoman Nikki Budzinski (IL-13) led U.S. Senators Dick Durbin andTammy Duckworth in a letter to Nippon Steel pushing the company for commitments to Granite City steelworkers during its proposed acquisition of U.S. Steel. 

In their letter, Budzinski, Durbin and Duckworth demanded answers from Nippon Steel on their intentions with existing operations and facilities in Illinois, details on worker retention and any proposed layoffs and their plans for Granite City Works.  

“We write today to express deep concerns with Nippon Steel’s plans to acquire U.S. Steel Corporation, particularly with respect to the deal’s impact on Illinois steelworkers. Given the critical importance of the steel industry to our region and the long history of union labor driving U.S. Steel to global prominence, it is essential that any company that plans to do business with U.S. Steel have a full understanding of the company’s legal commitments to its workers under collectively bargained agreements, maintain those commitments, and ensure that workers are protected in the next phase of the company’s future,” wrote the lawmakers. 

Congresswoman Budzinski has made steelworkers in Granite City a top priority during her time in Congress. She advocated for local workers during the Congressional Steel Caucus’ annual “State of Steel” meeting and urged U.S. Steel to continue operating in Granite City. She called for an investigation when U.S. Steel laid off 400 workers without giving them the advance notice required under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. And she has introduced legislation to strengthen advance notification requirements and worked to improve assistance available to impacted employees through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). 

The full text of the letter can be found here and below:

December 21, 2023

Mr. Eiji Hashimoto 

President

Nippon Steel Corporation 

6-1, Marunouchi 2-chome 

Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan

We write today to express deep concerns with Nippon Steel’s plans to acquire U.S. Steel Corporation, particularly with respect to the deal’s impact on Illinois steelworkers. Given the critical importance of the steel industry to our region and the long history of union labor driving U.S. Steel to global prominence, it is essential that any company that plans to do business with U.S. Steel have a full understanding of the company’s legal commitments to its workers under collectively bargained agreements, maintain those commitments, and ensure that workers are protected in the next phase of the company’s future.

The surprise announcement of the sale of U.S. Steel on the morning of December 18 was another chapter in a long story of the company undercutting both workers and their community in recent years. Workers at the Granite City Works facility have built their lives and livelihoods around the facility for 128 years, and, in return, the company abruptly announced in September that they were “temporarily” laying off 400 workers and idling a blast furnace—a move now being investigated by the Illinois Department of Labor to ensure compliance with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. In November, the company announced plans to temporarily idle the last remaining blast furnace at the facility, resulting in an additional 600 layoffs.

We are also troubled by reported remarks by a Nippon Steel executive in which the executive noted that Nippon is “supportive of the U.S. Steel plan for production in the future.” The executive went on to say that “U.S. Steel is planning to shift some quantity from the other mills to Big River Steel 2” in Arkansas and that Nippon is “thinking or planning to follow that plan.” A shift in jobs and operations from Granite City Works to Big River Steel would undermine the union labor force at the Granite City facility, and have devastating impacts on the surrounding community.

It is crucial that any company that wishes to acquire U.S. Steel, including the Granite City Works facility, honors their commitments to steelworkers and ensures that our industrial base – the driver of our regional economies – remains strong. We request further information on Nippon Steel’s proposal to acquire U.S. Steel and its assets in the event of a successful acquisition, and how that potential acquisition would impact steelworkers in Illinois. To that end, we have the following questions:

  1. How does Nippon Steel plan to move forward with U.S. Steel’s existing operations and facilities in Illinois?
    1. How many U.S. Steel workers does Nippon plan to retain, both in the short- and long-term?
    2. How many workers, if any, does Nippon plan to lay off in the event of a successful acquisition?
    3. What commitments can Nippon Steel make about its future operations in Illinois, particularly as it relates to the Granite City Works facility?
  2. What outreach did Nippon Steel conduct to stakeholders across sectors, including the United Steelworkers and state and community leaders, prior to going public with the planned acquisition?

Thank you in advance for your timely response to these questions. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions as they arise.

Respectfully,

###

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