Steel maker considering layoffs at Ky. plant

Published 12:52 am Sunday, October 18, 2015

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — AK Steel is considering idling some operations at an eastern Kentucky plant and laying off hundreds of workers because of competition from imported steel.

The company on Friday said it intends to temporarily shut down the blast furnace and related steelmaking operations at its Ashland plant, which has 940 workers. The steel from the plant in northeastern Kentucky near the West Virginia border is primarily sold to auto manufacturers.

“We are taking this necessary step due to the onslaught of what we believe are unfairly traded imports of carbon steel that have been flooding our shores,” AK Steel CEO and President James Wainscott said in a release Friday.

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The company says it is petitioning the International Trade Commission “in an attempt to combat these foreign imports.”

The notice given to workers on Friday is required by federal law 60 days ahead of layoffs. The release from AK Steel did not say how many workers at the plant would be affected.

The company says it will continue to operate its hot-dip galvanizing line at the Kentucky plant.

Scott Conley, president of the United Steelworkers Local 1865, says more than 600 union workers will be out of a job if the shutdown occurs. Salaried, non-union workers will also likely be affected, he said. The foreign steel coming into the country is coming from China, he said.

Conley, a welder at the Ashland plant for 15 years, said the uncertainty of the layoffs is leaving workers without a clear future.

“They’re in a situation where they don’t know whether to leave the area to find employment someplace else or try to hang it out,” he said.

The potential layoffs in Kentucky are landing a week after U.S. Steel Corp. proposed layoffs of 2,000 workers at its plant in Granite City in southern Illinois. The Pittsburgh-based company also cited foreign competition for its struggles.

AK Steel said the layoffs would not cause any interruptions in shipments to its customers. The company, based outside Cincinnati, has about 8,000 employees and 12 facilities in six states.