STEUBENVILLE - RG Steel has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, just a week after warning employees that ongoing liquidity problems would bring sweeping layoffs and plant closings in Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland.
RG listed more than $1 billion in assets and liabilities in the bankruptcy petition, which was filed in Delaware.
"We have to figure out what we're going to do," United Steelworkers Union Staff Representative Santo Santoro said. "We're going to have to have some form of financing, if anybody's interested in buying us - we don't have that information yet. But whatever it takes for them to get out of bankruptcy, we'll help them out and make this a good company. Whatever we have to do we would surely, surely look at it. We'll help them out and do whatever it takes to make it work. Our concern is to save jobs and create jobs in this valley, not to let them go away for good."
Photo by Scott McCloskey
A tractor-trailer drives past the RG Steel Martins Ferry plant Thursday. The steel company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The filing comes just one day after RG warned workers at its Follansbee coke plant that operations at that facility would be scaled back, at least for the time being. The coke plant is a joint operation with Severstal, the Russian steel company which had previously owned the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. properties in the Ohio Valley.
Prior to the bankruptcy filing, Ernie Gambellin, president of USW Local 1190 in Steubenville, confirmed the company was "hot idling" the old block batteries (Nos. 1, 2 and 3) for the time being, and said he's confident that, given the opportunity, the local operations could "be a serious steelmaker again."
The batteries "are being preserved, to come back online at a later time," he said. "This is what you do to preserve the battery. If it was a cold idle, it couldn't come back on."
Gambellin, who took over as Local 1190 president earlier this month, said it's not the first time the batteries have been idled.
"It was done when the economy hit the tank, I think about two years ago," he said.
He said the company hasn't said how the work force will be impacted.
By today the old block "will be completely hot idled," he said. "Next week will be the same schedule for everybody, but they haven't told us yet" what will happen after that.
The partial idling comes as workers at RG Steel's plants in Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia received federally required notices warning of sweeping layoffs and possible plant closings in the next 60 days as management grapples with an ongoing liquidity crisis.
Gambellin said it's not the first time his membership has received Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act letters, either.
"Through all of this I'm hoping a buyer comes through for our plant," he said. "This plant we have here is very unique. We've heard people talk about mini-mills being the way to go, we hear them talk about integrated, which we already are. We have the ability here to be a mini-mill. We have the electric arc furnace, the caster, a rolling mill. We have a blast furnace, too. We have a unique situation here, we could go either way. I'm hoping there's a buyer out there who sees us that way, because we can be that way."
Gambellin said he thinks of it "as an opportunity for us to be a serious steelmaker again, I don't know how else to put it."
"We have what we need, a capable, dedicated work force. We've worked with anybody who's come in here, we're willing to talk to anybody. We have a work force willing to do whatever is asked of them - we've done it in the past. We're hoping for one more chance. The steel industry isn't terrible right now, we expect it to pick up. We still feel like we can (contribute), and this is just a prime opportunity for someone to come in here."
Gambellin said about 450 people are working at the coke plant.
RG Steel was formed in March 2011 as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Renco Group, a family owned, private holding company founded in 1975. Renco said its businesses employ 18,000 people in eight companies operating in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa.