Sparrows Point Steel Plant To Fire Up Its Furnace; All Workers To Return

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– After some anxious weeks, local steel workers received some good news Friday.

Alex DeMetrick reports following layoffs and going cold, Sparrows Point is about to heat up.

Right around Christmas, the furnace at RG Steel was shut down. When it went cold, 800 workers at the Sparrows Point plant found themselves laid off and applying for unemployment at the Union Hall.

“We’re in a limbo stage,” Jeff Mikula, the local union president, said. “We don’t know how long it will be and how it will affect us.”

Friday, with an announcement by the governor, they found out that:

“A line of credit has been secured to allow RG to fire up the furnace again and get our steel workers back to work at Sparrows Point,” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said.

Surrounded by some of those workers, the news couldn’t be more welcome.

“Everybody back to work is definitely good news from three weeks ago when we thought we were done,” Josh Simes, an RG Steel employee, said.

“I’m pleased to hear that because I’ve been on pins and needles wondering if the plant was going to survive,” Eddie Bartee, another RG Steel employee, said.

It might not have. With the cost of raw materials up and the price of steel down by 30 percent, RG Steel needed cash to survive. Working with the union and state and federal governments, private loans were found.

“Next year is going to be a good year,” said John Goodwin, president and CEO of RG Steel. “Steel prices are on the rise. We’ve gone through all of our raw materials. That problem is behind us.”

By securing investment money now, RG Steel says it is positioned to grow.

“It means over 2,000 jobs at Sparrows Point, with another 10,000 to 12,000 supporting jobs that are going to be preserved,” Goodwin said.

“It looks like we’re going to survive. I’m glad to hear that,” Bartee said.

RG Steel management says the furnace should be operational by this weekend, with laid off workers starting to return next week.

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