Tinplate facility of Cleveland-Cliffs Weirton idles

Photo by Craig Howell Just over two months after making the announcement, Cleveland-Cliffs officially idled the tinplate facility in Weirton this weekend, affecting the employment of approximately 900 workers. The decision was made following a ruling by the U.S. International Trade Commission in February.

WEIRTON — The tinplate facility of Cleveland-Cliffs Weirton idled operations this weekend, potentially bringing to an end a 115-year history of metals manufacturing in the community.

“The workers are very concerned about their future,” noted Mark Glyptis, president of United Steelworkers Local 2911, the union representing the approximately 900 men and women who have been working at the Weirton tin mill. “It’s been very trying for individuals and their families.”

Cleveland-Cliffs announced its plans to idle the facility in mid-February, following a decision by the U.S. International Trade Commission, which voted 4-0 to overturn recommendations by the U.S. Department of Commerce to initiate tariffs on tin imports from China, Germany and Canada, and halting an investigation of imports from South Korea.

Company officials pointed to the decision as the reason for the idling, explaining once the ruling was announced, all of their tin customers looked for other sources of product.

“Our customer base pivoted. They went the easy route,” explained Clifford Smith, executive vice president of Cleveland-Cliffs, while taking part in a roundtable in Weirton with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and local officials April 4.

Smith noted, at the time, the idling is not a complete shutdown, with equipment staying on site and available in the event a decision would be made to restart operations. Of the approximately 900 workers employed in Weirton, around 300 received layoff notices last summer, with 200 opting to retire, at least 100 accepting positions at other Cleveland-Cliffs facilities and 100 or more others leaving the company.

On Friday, Glyptis explained those remaining will be on hand through the rest of the year to help keep the equipment maintained.

Despite all the changes and uncertainty, Glytpis has pledged to continue fighting on behalf of Weirton and its workers.

“I’m going to fight until the last breath in my body,” he said Friday.

He noted it is more expensive for the company to idle the Weirton mill as opposed to shutting it down entirely, saying he believes that is a sign of hope for the community and of commitment from the management of Cleveland-Cliffs.

Glyptis offered praise to company Chairman, President and CEO Lourenco Goncalves for what he said has been continued support for Weirton.

“Cleveland-Cliffs, with Lourenco at the helm, said they want to be in tin and started to invest,” Glytpis said, pointing to improvements made to the local mill in the last couple of years, as well as plans for the future. “He believes in Weirton. He didn’t want this to happen.”

Glyptis noted, prior to the ITC announcement, there had been discussions of hiring 50 positions, as well as additional investments as part of plans to secure Weirton’s operations for the future. He is hopeful those opportunities could still be on the table, adding in the event a restart does take place there is an agreement for anyone who wants to return to be rehired.

“There’s quite a few things happening behind the scenes,” Glyptis said.

He also credited the workers of Weirton, saying they have built a reputation as reliable and hard-working employees, and noting his office had been “flooded with phone calls” from other Cleveland-Cliffs operations offering positions.

Walter Dana, a retiree from Avella, said he experienced similar issues in the early 1980s when National Steel departed the community and Weirton Steel went through its Employee Stock Ownership Plan.

“It was a burden,” he said. “I’m still recovering.”

But he, too, offered some hope for this generation of worker, pointing to the symbol of “The Mighty Tin Can,” once seen in the mill and in Weirton, as well as the motto of “Success comes in cans. Failure comes in can’ts.”


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