The potential idling of RG Steel's Warren plant - perhaps as soon as the first week in June - would create financial havoc for both the mill's roughly 1,000 workers and the Mahoning Valley.
RG announced Thursday morning that it had issued a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires most employers with 100 or more employees to provide 60 days notice of plant closings and mass layoffs of hourly and salaried workers.
Maryland labor officials said they had been notified that layoffs would begin June 4 and run through June 18 at Sparrows Point near Baltimore, which employs about 2,000.
Tribune Chronicle file
RG Steel has issued layoff notices to its workers, including those at its Warren plant, shown here.
The Maryland Department of Labor said 1,975 employees would be affected, 1,714 hourly and 261 salaried employees.
Dave McCall, who chairs the USW team negotiating with RG Steel, said in a statement that the union "is continuing to work closely with RG Steel management to improve the company's liquidity during this process, and we are focused on preserving the tradition of making steel in these communities for the long term."
The union represents about 4,000 RG workers, including roughly 830 at the Warren mill. The rest are chiefly at Wheeling-Pitt operations in West Virginia and Ohio. Warren also has about 140 salaried and nonunion workers.
The decision does not affect a coke-making facility in Follansbee, W.Va., which is part of a joint venture with Severstal.
The announcement was another in a series of jolts suffered by workers at the Mahoning Valley's last surviving integrated steel mill - one that makes steel by melting iron ore with coke and limestone instead of recycling scrap steel.
The mill, which is scheduled to celebrate its 100th anniversary this year, went through a year-plus idling period in 2009 before resuming production in March 2010.
Earlier this month, RG announced pay and benefit cuts for about 140 salaried and nonunion office workers in an effort to cut costs.
The local mill stayed open as RG idled its giant Sparrows Point mill in late December, forcing the company to get a $100 million lifeline from an investment fund to ease its cash crunch.
RG Steel bought Warren and the other plants March 31, 2011, from Russia's OAO Severstal, forming the nation's fourth-largest flat-rolled steel producer.
In mid-May, RG denied a report it was trying to sell its mills, but officials later acknowledged the facilities, including the Warren mill, were on the table.
The company said orders were softer than expected in the second quarter, something it said other steel companies were experiencing.
Cuts also could be devastating to the city.
Warren Mayor Doug Franklin, who came off vacation Thursday morning to meet with local RG executives, expressed sympathy for workers, saying, "the city will look at any incentive package it can to get people back to work."
"It's financially devastating to the department," said Robert Davis, head of Warren's Water Department that supplies the mill on the city's southside with about 1 million gallons a day, largely to cool machinery in the steelmaking process.
RG is Warren's largest water customer, about twice as big as the runnerup General Motors Co. Lordstown Complex that builds the Chevrolet Cruze small car, Davis said.
The steel mill brings in $1.5 million a year out of the Water Department's $10 million annual budget, he said. He said they might look to shale drillers, who use great amounts of water in fracturing rock deep below ground to free the area's supposed large quantities of natural gas and oil, to help offset the losses.
Warren's Water Pollution Control Department receives about $720,000 a year from the mill to treat waste water before discharging it into the Mahoning River, said Tom Angelo, Warren Water Pollution Control director.
The city's general fund, which provides money for police, fire and other workers' wages and benefits, received $275,000 in 2011 in income taxes from RG workers who live in the city, tax administrator Tom Gaffney said.
Receipts so far this year are on a similar pace as part of the city's roughly $17 million budget, he said.
Franklin tried to stay upbeat, saying city officials will "do all we can to help. Warren's been down this road before. I believe in the resiliency of this community and look forward to working to lessen the impact on workers and their families."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.