RG mill’s future remains foggy, ex-workers told
By Burton Speakman
More questions than answers remain for former employees of RG Steel here.
Those workers filled the United Steel- workers Local 1375 union hall Thursday for an informational meeting that many said didn’t provide a lot of information.
At one point, more than 100 people stood outside the hall waiting to get inside as other members were being briefed by union leaders.
More than 1,000 workers were laid off in June after RG Steel filed for federal bankruptcy protection May 31. The employees were let go throughout the month as the company completed current orders.
The only thing workers were told for sure was that their health insurance and other benefits expire at the end of the month, said Patty Helmick.
“Otherwise we still don’t know anything,” she said.
“They told us they still have hope,” said Janet Rossi.
The employees were told they will receive a letter in the next two weeks outlining what is expected to happen, she said.
When asked to comment about Thursday’s meeting, Tony Montana, spokesman for the USW, replied, “Out of our desire to keep available as many options as possible for the future of the RG Steel facilities, the USW respectfully declines to comment at this time. We remain singularly focused on preserving these mills and jobs for current, retired and future USW members, our families and communities.”
Rex Polivka said the meeting was “a slap in the face” to the union members.
“They couldn’t answer any of my questions because they didn’t know themselves,” he said.
It’s sad that both Paul Ryan, Republican vice presidential candidate, and representatives of the Obama administration were in the area Thursday and neither group came to the USW hall, Polivka said.
“They would be all over the place if this was GM,” he said.
A federal bankruptcy judge in Delaware has given provisional approval to the sale of assets of RG Steel in Warren and Sparrows Point, Md. The winning bid for the Warren plant was made by C.J. Betters Enterprises in Monaca, Pa.
The provisional sale approval did little to assuage the steel workers’ fears. They were anxious to learn how many of them, if any, might go back to work. Chuck Betters, the owner of C.J. Betters, stated that he wants to restart the steel plant, but he does not know to what degree or with how many employees.
Some workers were speculating the new company would come to the plant and make cheap fixes designed to last just a few years.
Betters said previously it would take a lot of capital investment to restart the plant, and a lot of things within it needed to be fixed.
Part of Betters’ bid included $1 million in credit to a winning bidder that agreed not to demolish the plant for nine months, to look at the company records and to try to restart production.
ArcelorMittal owns a coke plant next to RG Steel’s Warren facility and made a motion during Wednesday’s hearing that the sale of the plant to C.J. Betters Enterprises should preserve an option to purchase certain assets in Warren, according to American Metal Market, a trade publication. Those assets include the boiler and power house facilities.
ArcelorMittal had signed the purchase-option deal in 1988 with Warren Consolidated Industries Inc., which later became RG Steel. Contributor: Associated Press