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U.S. Steel also taking a hit

LORAIN — U.S. Steel is planning to lay off 261 employees at its Lorain steel mill over the next few weeks, union officials said.

United Steelworkers Local 1104 President Dennis Hamilton said Thursday he was only recently told by U.S. Steel officials that layoffs will start next week when 43 people are expected to be idled.

The layoff numbers at U.S. Steel will continue to climb for the rest of the month. Hamilton said there are 337 active employees at U.S. Steel right now, and he expects that number to drop to 76 by next month.

“They’re in bad shape,” Hamilton said of the company.

It’s another blow to the union, which also represents workers at neighboring Republic Steel. Republic announced Thursday it will indefinitely idle its Lorain operations by the end of March.

Sarah Cassella, a U.S. Steel spokeswoman, blamed market forces for the actions U.S. Steel is planning to take.

“Challenging market conditions, including fluctuating oil prices, reduced rig counts, depressed steel prices and unfairly traded imports continue to reduce demand for tubular goods,” Cassella wrote.

She declined to comment on Republic’s decision to idle its Lorain plant, which Republic blamed on similar economic woes, or the particulars of the relationship between the two companies.

“We continue to adjust our production at Lorain to meet our operational and business needs,” Cassella, wrote in an email in response to questions about the upcoming layoffs.

Hamilton said that unlike the Republic decision, U.S. Steel does plan to bring workers back and continue to produce steel in Lorain.

He said U.S. Steel plans to restart the plant for two weeks in February before shutting down for three weeks in March.

It’s not the first round of layoffs to hit U.S. Steel in the past year. The company laid off 614 workers in March, a move also blamed on the downturn in the oil and gas industries.

Hamilton has said when he took over as union president in May, there were about 650 people working at U.S. Steel, a figure that had dropped to 350 last month.

The troubles in the steel industry and the accompanying layoffs at Lorain’s steel mills has left the city facing a budget deficit of at least $2.3 million this year, something city Auditor Karen Shawver said the new rounds of layoffs will only make worse.

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