McKeesport pipemaking plant idling delayed

| Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, 10:03 a.m.

U.S. Steel will continue operations for two more weeks at its pipemaking facility in McKeesport.

“As per the WARN notice, the indefinite idling will begin on Aug. 17 at McKeesport,” company spokeswoman Sarah A. Cassella said on Friday.

That's the 60-day notice required by the federal 1989 Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act and given to McKeesport employees on June 2.

The idling affects approximately 160 rank-and-file and 20 management employees at the former Camp-Hill Corporation electric resistance weld plant near the Marina at McKees Point.

While those 60 days actually expired on Saturday, a process is needed to implement the idling at McKeesport Tubular Operations.

Employees reportedly have been told that a handful of workers will be kept on after Aug. 17 for maintenance work that could last through Sept. 2.

However, little has been said about that by the company and United Steelworker union officials have not responded to requests for comment.

Many McKeesport employees have taken advantage of sessions held by a state Department of Labor & Industry Rapid Response team. A spokeswoman said sessions were conducted between July 7 and Wednesday.

“We have so far held six sessions with 119 workers,” spokeswoman Sara Goulet said.

When the idling takes effect, activity will shift to the department's CareerLink office in Forest Hills.

“The CareerLink office will hold enrollment (for unemployment benefits) and job assessment appointments after the layoffs occur,” Goulet said.

Rapid Response services go beyond unemployment counseling. Other subjects brought up at sessions in McKeesport have included health and pension benefits, job search activities, education services, training, Trade Adjustment Assistance programs, social services, community and economic development activities, emergency assistance and crisis counseling.

“It takes them through a process not unlike grieving the loss of a loved one,” Goulet said.

The company is preparing as well for what happens once the mill is empty.

“We have a very adept security team who will be executing a plan,” Cassella said. “We can't go into great detail.”

Camp-Hill operated the plant from when the rest of the old National Tube Works was closed in 1987 until U.S. Steel took the plant back in 2011.

The idling of McKeesport and Bellville, Texas, tubular plants is mentioned in U.S. Steel's second-quarter results announced this week, as well as the company's prediction that “tubular results are expected to improve slightly as compared to the second quarter” over the next three months.

“Shipments are expected to decrease, due to the indefinite idling of the McKeesport and Bellville facilities, while average realized prices are projected to increase due to improved pricing and mix,” the company announced.

McKeesport and Bellville are two of 10 plants operated by U.S. Steel's Tubular Division. The Mon Valley Works that includes plants in Braddock, West Mifflin and Clairton are among U.S. Steel's flat-rolled steel operations.

U.S. Steel and others are awaiting a ruling in mid-August from the International Trade Commission about the Oil Country Tubular Goods trade case.

The trade case refers to the pipe used in the oil and gas industry, produced by U.S. Steel in McKeesport but also produced and allegedly dumped by other countries on the U.S. market.

“Unfairly traded imports from India, South Korea, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine and Vietnam have dramatically changed the domestic market for OCTG steel,” Congressional Steel Caucus chairman Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, testified before the International Trade Commission on July 15, “and pose a substantial, severe, and imminent threat to the domestic industry and all domestic steel producers that supply the industry.”

Other area lawmakers and United Steelworkers president Leo Gerard joined Murphy at the trade commission hearing in Washington.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967. or

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