Union Members Trying To Save Their Sand Springs Steel Jobs

Monday, July 27th 2009, 4:56 pm
By: News On 6

By Jeffrey Smith, The News On 6

SAND SPRINGS, OK - There's an ongoing effort to save a steel mill.  The Gerdau Ameristeel plant in Sand Springs could be shut down by Labor Day. 

Union workers are taking their fight to the state.  The Sand Springs mill is the last steel plant operating in Oklahoma.  Union representatives say if it goes a large chunk of the local economy goes with it.

06/09/2009 Related Story: Sand Springs Steel Plant May Close

Steel worker Troy Zickefoose says it's been a tumultuous month. 

"Just not knowing if, whether we're going to have a job, and what's going to happen with the whole city of Sand Springs," said steel worker Troy Zickefoose.

As he tries to pressure state agencies to help save the mill, they mayor of Sand Springs says it's an uphill fight.

"We have to keep in mind, they make a product, steel, that's not really in demand," said Sand Springs Mayor Bob Walker.

Because of that, Gerdau Ameristeel closed two New Jersey plants in June and said they're considering closing the Oklahoma mill.  That's a required step given 90 days before a plant's closure.

"This plant is a staple of this community. And there's a lot of people depending on it," said steel worker Troy Zickefoose.

Zickefoose says if the state invests in the mill, Gerdau will reconsider closing shop.

One of the ways the Union is aggressively trying to keep its doors open is by handing out hundreds of petitions to Sand Springs residents. The company is encouraging them to get in touch with their representatives, and find a way to keep the mill running

"Our big issue, at this particular plant, is that the plant is old, and does not conform to EPA standards after next year," said steel worker Troy Zickefoose.

He wants the Oklahoma Department of Commerce to invest in upgrades like new furnaces and operating systems.

Mayor Walker says it's an expensive proposal and Gerdau could still decide to cease operations whenever they want.

"The environmental upgrades, that's one of the real uphill battles of this mill," said Sand Springs Mayor Bob Walker.

Even Zickefoose says getting state aid in this economy is a long shot, but it's the best shot to save almost 300 jobs.

It is unclear how much money would be needed to upgrade the plant.  The Secretary of Commerce is still working on a proposal.  It is expected to be ready in two weeks.  After it is released, Gerdau will make a final decision.