AND THEN AGAIN…… Tamara Pettit

………We all remember where we were when the news came down that National Steel was going to divest Weirton Steel and leave us with only 900 employees.  That was when there was a mighty tin can and Weirton Steel was the largest employer in the State.    Governors and Senators came to us….we didn’t to them.    The shock waves were felt throughout the county and within weeks there was a plan in place.   We would do an Employee Owned Company.   That was a different time and a different place.

…..When I opened my e-mails at 6 a.m. Monday, I couldn’t believe Cleveland-Cliffs would shut a company down in a press release with no forewarning.  The WARN notices announcing the shutdown in 60 days were on there way.  This was the real thing. But. there had been forewarning.    The International Trade Commission had been set to rule on tariffs placed on tin from Germany, Canada, China,, the day before.   The four-seated commissioners unanimously ruled not to impose them. I say four-seated commissioners, because only four of the six seats are filled. And, I also point out that while two of those Commissioners were appointed by Obama; one was appointed by Trump and the other was reappointed by Trump. None has been appointed by Biden. Did he forget about those hardworking steelworkers in West Virginia?

…….I wasn’t the only one in shock. No officials had been met with, no media advised ahead of time and yet four people made a decision that will change Weirton forever and end 115-year-old tradition of providing high quality steel to the world during good times and bad. The town that was once lauded as “freedom town” for their efforts during WW II and the community that coined “We Can Do It” and acquired Weirton Steel as the largest employer-owned company in the World had been done away with four people’s vote……and I wonder if any of them had ever visited Weirton?

…….Mark Glyptis told me that the actual number is approximately 935 with management positions and 235 had been laid off this summer. He said 160 are of the age they could retire. And, he said the USW will appeal the ruling. He was running and he kept to his word he would return all phone calls. And, I thank him for that. I did not, however, want to slow him down with my next questions: Who appeals and how. What is the time frame to appeal. Does the fact that there is not a fully-seated Commission have any legal bearing. Do we, the business owners and citizens of this County have in recourse to help?

Here is what I know. The Commissioners and the Presidents who appointed them are David Johnson (Obama); Rhonda Schmidtlein (Obama); David Kearns (Obama – reappointed by Trump in 2018) and Amy Koppel (Trump) The two remaining seats have not been filled by Biden. Perhaps he has forgotten the hardworking steelworkers in West Virginia. Would the outcome had been different if if the Commission had a full slate.

…….Here is what I don’t know. The appeal process. If it has a time certain or can delay a closing. The process for a revote? If any of the current commissioners have visited the factories in the Free trade countries or studied their environmental or child labor data? If that can be made part of the position requirements? But, I will find out.

……….Have we in Weirton been duped? I think we were years ago, not only by our free trade President Bill Clinton who came to Weirton and pledged to support our industry and then flip-flopped on it. Weirton Steel’s own President Herb Elish supported the free trade. I was Chair of the House Committee on Industry and Labor at the time and when I found out wrote Elish a detailed, two-page letter pointing out the error of his ways. I received a very short letter back. Herb stated he disagreed with my stance, but some very influential Senators (Jay Rockefeller) agreed with me. Talk about a verbal pat on the head!

…….And Clinton, My late husband Bill Kiefer, was invited to a private meeting with Clinton and Bush after the “Conversations” presentation in Pittsburgh. The free trade and Weirton response was brought up and Bill did a hilarious imitation of Clinton puffing on a cigar saying you have to give the response for where you were and he was in Weirton. We were had!

…….And, now if there is an ounce of hope we should try reversal. If not, then we move on and give our rebirth the best shot we have!