Workers who lost their jobs as part of RG Steel's bankruptcy deal - including workers at the Warren mill - can apply for help under the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance and Health Coverage Tax Credit programs.
"So many of RG Steel's employees have put their hearts and souls into their work in the mills - often for years or decades," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. "Petitions have previously been approved for most of RG Steel's facilities, allowing the employees to receive these important benefits to help them get the support they need and get back on their feet. And now the Wheeling and Follansbee employees will get those benefits as well."
Rockefeller pushed the Department of Labor to approve benefits for RG Steel employees. With this announcement, all trade adjustment petitions for RG Steel's facilities have been approved, including in Warren, Martins Ferry, Yorkville, Mingo Junction and Steubenville in Ohio, and Wheeling, Follansbee and Beech Bottom in West Virginia.
Together, the programs provide income support, job training and health care benefits to employees laid off as a result of RG Steel's bankruptcy.
Darryl Parker, president of United Steelworkers of America Local 1375, said the Warren workers have been taking advantage of the program for some time. Parker said between 1,200 and 1,300 workers have taken advantage of the program.
Efforts are being made to winterize the mill since it was sold in September through U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware to BDM Steel Holdings LLC, who are searching for a new buyer, Parker said. He said he did not know how many employees are still working at the mill as it goes through the winterization process.
He said he has not heard of any changes yet in their situation.
Gary Steinbeck, director USW subdistrict office in Niles, could not be reached for comment.
The trade adjustment program ensures that workers who lose their jobs as a result of outsourcing to foreign countries are provided with training and financial assistance to transition to new employment. Eligible workers also qualify for the health credit, which makes health insurance coverage more affordable by providing a 72.5 percent tax credit to laid off employees receiving benefits, as well as retirees who receive pension payments through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.
A firm specializing in "demolition" and "industrial gutting" - Frontier Industrial of Buffalo, N.Y. - purchased the entire Mingo Junction plant at an auction for $20 million.
RG also sold the closed Steubenville North plant to a subsidiary of Herman Strauss Inc., a Wheeling-based recycling business. Strauss paid $4.3 million for about 103 acres, plus another $10.7 million for the scrap and machinery.
Junkins writes for The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register in West Virginia.