WARREN - Another 287 hourly workers at RG Steel LLC's Warren mill were laid off Friday, bringing the total hourly furloughs to 550, a union leader said.
United Steelworkers Local 1375 President Darryl Parker said 190 of his members are still active in the mill, which is being gradually shuttered as RG Steel struggles with a cash crunch due to declining orders and its own Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Parker said 38 salaried workers also were laid off, pushing the total new hourly and salary layoffs at the mill to 325 and overall total to 588 since the first round was announced June 1. About 80 salaried workers are still on the job, with another dozen or so on vacation, he said.
The hourly layoffs occurred among those left in the primary steelmaking operations - blast furnace, basic oxygen furnaces and continuous caster - from the first wave of furlough of 263 workers, Parker said. Other hourly workers are on leave, he noted.
The latest layoffs also included production and maintenance workers in the 56-inch hot rolling mill, as well as office and technical workers.
Parker said finishing and shipping departments probably have another two to three weeks worth of work left.
RG, which warned May 24 of layoffs due to weak business conditions, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy May 31 in Wilmington, Del., listing assets and liabilities of $1 billion-plus each.
The company received $50 million to help it keep operating but had to agree with lenders to sell assets by July 27.
Also Friday, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, joined other elected officials in sending letters to U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman asking them to ensure that eligible RG Steel employees and retirees receive benefits to help them transition to new jobs, if needed, and also purchase affordable health coverage.
"The complexities surrounding RG Steel, its former owner, Severstal, and the bankruptcy proceedings have raised serious concerns among former employees at the company," Brown said. "It's vital that these workers get the federal assistance that they have earned and are now entitled to."
He said that he and other senators have been working to make sure that eligible employees and retirees receive support, including Trade Adjustment Assistance and Health Care Tax Credit benefits.
The TAA program ensures that workers who lose their jobs and financial security as a result of outsourcing to foreign countries have an opportunity to transition to new jobs and emerging sectors of the economy.
The HCTC promotes private health insurance access for recipients, and makes health insurance coverage more affordable to workers who lose their jobs due to trade and offshoring.
RG Steel said in bankruptcy documents that it employs about 3,500 hourly and 500 salaried workers at major mills in Warren, Sparrows Point, Md., and Wheeling, W. Va., along with smaller operations.