STEUBENVILLE - The president of the United Steelworkers Local 2911 told the Steubenville Kiwanis Club members Tuesday afternoon to be, "upbeat and to recognize the resources we have."
Mark Glyptis, a seven term union president at the Weirton steel mill said it is easy, "to bury our heads in the sand but I will not do that. We are fortunate to live here because I believe we will see a huge success story in the next several years."
"The steel industry in Weirton is alive and well. I feel we are so fortunate we have a tin facility that is working so well. We are now on the verge of becoming the number one tin producer in North America. We have been dealt some difficult times. But we have very secure jobs with very good job benefits that we obtained through difficult negotiations," explained Glyptis.
TALKING STEEL AND FUTURE JOBS — Mark Glyptis, president of the United Steelworkers Local 2911 in Weirton told the Steubenville Kiwanis Club the area has a bright future in spite of the decline of the local steel industry. -- Mark Glyptis
"We are competing on a worldwide basis. In the late 1990s the federal government refused to treat the domestic steel industry with a fair hand and 42 steel companies went bankrupt. Weirton Steel was the 40th steel company to enter bankruptcy. We were asked to compete against countries who paid their workers 25 cents an hour. They used child labor, had very little benefits and poor environmental laws. But we were able to hold on. We may now be a fraction of what we were but we are a solid company," pronounced Glyptis.
"We are continuing to develop the Steelworker of the Future program. Schools haven't promoted a job in the steel industry for a long time. But we still need steelworkers. Becoming a steelworker today is much more difficult because you need computer skills and basic mechanical and electrical skills. We are working with Eastern Gateway Community College and the West Virginia Northern Community College to prepare future steelworkers. And that training concept has caught on with the United Steelworkers and is now in place across the country. We have hired 104 steelworkers this year and they are excellent employees," continued Glyptis.
"I believe our area will grow in the future because ArcelorMittal Steel does not have the same land philosophy that Weirton Steel had. Weirton Steel would never sell any property even if they had no use for it. ArcelorMittal is willing to sell property that is not used for the steelmaking process. And yes, we are soon going to see the Basic Oxygen Plant and Caster taken down. It is a great building with a lot of history. But there is not a single job in that building. People oppose taking those buildings down because their families worked there. But is can't be used for steelmaking again so lets sell the land for another business," urged Glyptis.
"When the demolition of the Open Hearth started people were upset. But I said there has been no jobs in the Open Hearth since 1969. And only birds live in the Open Hearth. Lets clear it out and use the land for something else," he added.
"We can feel sorry for ourselves and maybe we will see a shopping mall built here in 35 years like they did in Homestead or Youngstown. We have the Ohio River, a railroad and highway system and an international airport just minutes away. I am extremely optimistic and grateful for what we have had here and the potential we have in the future. Life has challenges but I truly believe good things are going to happen here. I thank God every day of my life for what we have here," stated Glyptis.
The Kiwanians also heard from John Balzano, benefits coordinator at Local 2911 and the senior employee of the Weirton mill.
"When I started in the mill in 1959 there were 1,400 people working there. Now we have about 900 union members. When I started it used to take nine hours to make 300 tons of steel. Now it takes 25 minutes to make 300 tons of steel," cited Balzano.
"The steel industry has changed dramatically in the past 25 years and the workforce continues to get small. But at Weirton we have been able to offer buy-outs to allow the senior employees who want to leave to do so and allow the younger employees to keep working," said Balzano.
"The important thing I tell everyone is to be upbeat. Recognize what we have in our area. We are going to be a tin only facility but we have the opportunity to see additional companies and industries come to our area. Very good things are going to happen in Weirton. The steel mills originally came here for a reason. Now other businesses will come here and we will see our local area boom," predicted Glyptis.
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)