Skilled union workers at Allegheny Technologies Inc.’s Midland site, which is set to close by late June, want the company to consider selling the plant for good.
ATI’s CEO in late March announced the company would idle the plant due to business made unsustainable by President Donald Trump’s steel tariffs. The plant reopened more than two years ago as a joint venture with China’s Tsingshan Group, the world’s largest stainless steel producer, after closing in late 2016 due to underwhelming market returns.
“It’s frustrating because we’ve been through this so many times,” said Tony Tepsic, president of United Steelworkers Local 1212, which represents about 60 Midland workers. “They won’t sell the plant, but there would possibly be someone who would purchase it. Instead, one of the best steel mills in the country is going to sit and rot.”
Two ATI exemption requests were denied by the federal government earlier this month, effectively sealing the fate of the plant. The U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security, a U.S. Department of Commerce agency, found the company’s nickel-rich stainless steel slabs, imported from Indonesia, are sufficiently available through domestic suppliers. ATI leaders say those suppliers are price-gouging direct competitors.
In an op-ed written for the Wall Street Journal, ATI CEO Robert Wetherbee said the company’s Midland plant is “hemorrhaging money” due to Trump’s 25 percent tax on imported steel.
The Midland plant specializes in cold-rolling 60-inch stainless steel sheets used in products ranging from kitchen appliances to car parts. ATI filed exclusion requests to bring in 150,000 tons of penalty-free stainless steel — 6 percent of the total U.S. stainless-steel market — after a larger request was denied. A&T Stainless alerted nearly 70 Midland-based employees that operations will cease by the end of the second quarter June 30. The plant supports about 200 indirect jobs, according to ATI.