STEUBENVILLE - After seeing their jobs put on hold in 2009 when Severstal still operated the plants, many laid off RG Steel employees are set to lose their health benefits by the end of this month.
Christ Vergitz, acting president of the United Steelworkers Local 1190 in Steubenville, said the situation with the plants in the city and in Mingo Junction does not seem to be getting better. The plants, which operated for many years under the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel banner, have been idle since spring 2009.
"The North (Steubenville) Plant was up for sale. We have no confirmation of it being sold, but it was up for sale," said Vergitz, noting he took over as acting president because Bill Bensie needed to take medical leave.
Photo by Casey Junkins
Many RG Steel employees who have been laid off for three consecutive years are set to lose their health benefits at the end of this month.
Upon recent visual observation of the Steubenville plant, it appeared the outer wall of one of the mill's smaller buildings had been stripped, leaving only the skeleton of steel beams standing. Other portions of the mill are obviously rusting and deteriorating.
"We are not going to comment on rumors and speculation," said RG spokeswoman Bette Kovach regarding the possible sale of the Steubenville facility.
Vergitz said there is still a small crew working at the Mingo Junction plant just to maintain the facility.
"The company has always told us that one is not for sale," he said of the mill. "We are trying to keep it in the best shape possible if they would decide to restart it."
Vergitz said many of the unemployed workers were scheduled to receive health care coverage for up to two years as part of their contract. Last year, he said, the company agreed to extend the benefits for one year, but that year will be over at the end of March.
Kovach said she would try to get a comment regarding the loss of health benefits but would be unable to do so by press time Thursday.
As a 40-year veteran of the local steel industry, Vergitz said having the Steubenville and Mingo Junction plants out of operation has produced "three long years."
"Since the layoff, a lot of the younger guys have moved on to other careers," he said. "They've had to do what they've had to do to take care of their families."
In addition to the shuttered Steubenville and Mingo Junction facilities, RG Steel also owns the former Wheeling-Pitt plants at Martins Ferry and Yorkville, both of which have at least limited operations ongoing. It owns the Wheeling Corrugating Co. at Beech Bottom, as well.
The company is also half owner of Mountain State Carbon's Follansbee coke plant and the Ohio Coatings plant at Yorkville.