Op-ed: America needs Mon Valley steel

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | May 5, 2022

By Mike Evanovich, Don Furko AND Jason Zugai

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine underscored, once again, the need to increase industrial production and build out our critical supply chains so the nation can produce on its own soil the items we need both in times of crises and in everyday life. Pittsburgh’s steel industry is crucial to that effort.

And not only that effort. Union members at U.S. Steel and other manufacturers produce the goods we need for growing the clean economy. That includes pipes for safe drinking water, lightweight alloys for fuel-efficient and electric vehicles, and steel for offshore wind turbines and solar power plants.

Demand for these and many other items will only increase as the nation embarks on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure program the Biden administration signed into law. Given the high stakes, America cannot afford to squander its existing manufacturing resources.

Unfortunately, outside special interest groups seek to close one of the crucial elements in region’s prosperity and America’s security: U.S. Steel’s Mon Valley Works — and even more disturbingly, eliminate the jobs of the people who work there.

U.S. Steel and its predecessor, Carnegie Steel, have been producing steel in the Pittsburgh region for 120 years. Generations of steelworkers have manned the coke ovens, blast furnaces and mills that have seen us through two world wars and helped build our country.

Three USS plants collectively make up the USS Mon Valley Works: the Edgar Thomson Works, the Irvin Plant and the Clairton Coke Works. The United Steelworkers proudly represents 3,000 members working in these plants.

The steel industry contributes more than $20 billion annually to the Pennsylvania economy, paying more than $2 billion in state of local taxes and more than $3 billion in wages. Especially in the Pittsburgh region, it continues to be one of the largest employers and economic drivers. A further reduction in production at Clairton — or worse, a plant closure — would devastate the Mon Valley.

The Mon Valley Works is widely recognized as a highly efficient and low-cost integrated steel producer, a linchpin of the nation’s industrial base. This is a testament to the thousands of Steelworkers who run those facilities.

The American steel industry ranks among the most heavily regulated and cleanest on the planet. U.S. Steel spends more than $100 million every year on environmental compliance at the Mon Valley Works, mostly at the Clairton facility. The Clairton location has received a world-class environmental compliance rate of 99 percent, which speaks to the experience and commitment of USW Local 1557 members.

USW members share their neighbors’ concerns about pollution. But we also recognize that a safe, prosperous future depends on careful stewardship of both the environment and the economy. It’s critical that workers, the public, regulators and U.S. Steel collaborate on a path forward that averts emissions while preserving the many benefits of steelmaking.

Like generations of workers before them, today’s USW members have an unwavering commitment to the Mon Valley. We are proud to raise our families here, support our communities, and contribute to our region’s progress. We remain dedicated to the highest operating standards, and we will continue to lead the charge for upgrades at the coke works and to hold U.S. Steel accountable.

The Mon Valley Works is an integral part of our region’s history, but it will be even more essential as we look to build a strong future for our communities and our nation.

Mike Evanovich is president of USW Local 1219 at Edgar Thomson Works; Don Furko is President of USW Local 1557 Clairton Coke Works; and Jason Zugai is president of USW Local 2227 at U.S. Steel’s Irvin Plant.

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