I am writing in response to a letter that was printed Sunday in the Tribune. It was written by Leonard J. Sainato. He is basically stating in that letter he wrote that the steel mill in Warren known as RG Steel should be demolished.
He apparently did not work there, otherwise he would not have written such a morbid letter. I, on the other hand, spent 21 years and six months of my life there along with many good co-workers. That particular steel mill always made money. There have been many improvements made over the 20-plus years I was there. Those included a computerized system in the 56-inch rolling mill to get precise thickness of the coils, a walking beam furnace in the 56-inch mill to improve coil quality, a continuous slab caster to cut down pouring and slab rolling time, computerized steel mixing to improve the quality of customer orders, and numerous EPA upgrades.
We were also going to get the blast furnace relined this year and the number four stove that provides wind to the furnace rebuilt from the ground up. The circumstances that threw more than 1,000 people on the street was not a matter of improvements not being made. It was the Sparrows point mill in Baltimore, Md., and the Wheeling Pitt mill in West Virginia. Those two mills continued to eat up the profits our mill continued to make. It was basically a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. For 100 years, the Warren plant made steel at a competitive price, and at a competitive man-hours-per-ton. We are a custom-order steel mill. We don't make one particular product, and we were good at it. As a stand-alone mill, we always made a profit, but when we were thrown into a conglomeration we had to support two other mills that slowly pulled us down.
It was not due to a lack of technological upgrades as Mr. Sainato stated. Our work force was the best at what we did, and we did it well. The main thing that has hurt us and is still hurting us is foreign makers. When George W. Bush was in office he succeeded in placing tariffs on foreign steel coils. It was supposed to be 30 percent for three years, but after only 18 months it was revoked because the CEOs of the autoworkers and many other manufacturers said American steel was too pricey to purchase. The price of an automobile would have only gone up one more payment.
Our federal government tends to only help the company that has the word auto in it. Well, the steelworkers in this country deserve to have well-paying jobs and live a good life also. Now I, along with my former union brothers and sisters, are on the street with no job and no health insurance. This happened with a combination of foreign steel, dispassionate owners, and the companies that purchase foreign steel to make their products. The steel mill in Warren is and always will be a money maker. Our mill in Warren has the technical advancements already in place. All we need is an owner with the passion and determination to get it online, and we would thrive once more.