Steel On the Lakeshore

Lakeshore Public Radio explores the Region’s history with steel – for better and worse. Stories will include features, updates on the struggling industry, and what the future holds for a once dominant industry in Northwest Indiana.

Heather Eidson / The Times

PORTAGE, Ind. (AP) — Documents show that U.S. Steel failed to test a Lake Michigan tributary for a potentially carcinogenic chemical after a spill from one of the company's plans in northwest Indiana.

The Chicago Tribune reports the incident was the second time this year that the company's Portage plant dumped chromium into Burns Waterway.

Details about the failed testing were in an inspection report posted online Tuesday by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

The first stop in our series on the Ports of Indiana was Burns Harbor, an international maritime facility in the heart of steel country. Four hours down Interstate 65, the Port of Jeffersonville is less a port and more a manufacturing hub that happens to be on the Ohio River.

For the next part of our series, Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Annie Ropeik reports Jeffersonville is pushing ahead with expansions to cement its place in the Midwest industrial corridor.

Indiana’s ports move millions of tons each year of the stuff that’s made and used at Midwest factories, including steel, grains and coal. The three ports – one on Lake Michigan and two on the Ohio River – connect Indiana to the national and global economies, and each has to find its own ways to keep up with change.

For the first part of a three-part series, we visited the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor to see how it’s secured its place in the steel industry.

Steelworkers from around the country were in D.C. this week to ask Congress to strengthen its support for the domestic steel industry.

Among them was Billy McCall, who’s worked at U.S. Steel’s huge Gary Works mill for more than 20 years.

He and other United Steelworkers union members talked with federal representatives this week about an ongoing trade investigation into the effect of excess Chinese steel imports on national security.

McCall says that’s about not just defense, but infrastructure and people.

U.S. Steel Chemical Spill Threatens Lake Michigan

Apr 12, 2017

The Environmental Protection Agency is responding to a chemical spill, which threatens beaches and the nearest public water intake, from the U.S. Steel facility in Portage.

US Steel reported Tuesday the wastewater spill into Burns Waterway, about 100 yards away from Lake Michigan. In a statement released late Wednesday, U.S. Steel says the spill resulted from an equipment failure and it has idled all production processes at the facility.

A Minnesota steel company is spending almost $9 million dollars to grow its operations at the Port of Indiana in Burns Harbor, as state officials say they’ll prioritize Indiana ports and infrastructure investment in 2017.

Ratner Steel Supply plans to double the size of its four-year-old operations in Portage, just east of Gary.

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation says Ratner will add a few dozen jobs and expand its ability to ship steel across the Region.


Nov 21, 2016

A judge has thrown out an antitrust claim against China by U.S. Steel. It’s the latest twist in the Northwest Indiana steel giant’s months-long bid to ban Chinese steel imports:

International Trade Commission administrative judge Dee Lord rejected the Pittsburgh-based company’s antitrust complaint against China. But it’s not the only trade case that U.S. Steel has in the works with the ITC.

A steelworker was killed at U.S. Steel’s Gary Works plant last week on September 30th. It’s the second death there this year, it comes amid rising tensions over safety.

Data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration shows 28 primary metal manufacturing workers were killed on the job across the country in 2014. Two of those were in Indiana, about average for the past few years.

Steel Imports and Exports

Aug 4, 2016

The U.S. Commerce Department is using a new monitoring system to shed light on how steel moves around the world. Industry watchers say it could drive long-term policy changes to protect American steel from the effects of foreign trade.

The first installment of the new Global Steel Trade Monitor ranks China first in the world for steel exports, and the U.S. first for imports.

Sharon Jackson / Lakeshore Public Radio

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Baron Hill has won the endorsement of the United Steel Workers Local 1066.

At a rally Monday announcing the endorsement, Mike Millsap, District Director of the United Steelworkers said the local is supporting Hill because of his positions on issues.

Hill says strong labor unions is what built the middle class in this country and they must be protected.

ArcelorMittal Gets 10-Year-Deal

Jun 21, 2016

Chris Nolte spoke with Northwest Indiana Times reporter Joseph Pete regarding ArcelorMittal’s new 10-year-deal that will bring business to its East Chicago steel mill.

Steelmaker ArcelorMittal, whose largest North American mill is in Indiana Harbor, is introducing a new high-strength steel for cars. As Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Annie Ropeik reports, it’s part of an effort to boost profits — amid an uncertain time for the industry.

The new steel is designed for the interior rails and pillars that make cars safer during a crash. A spokesperson from Arcelor, which is the world’s largest steel producer by volume, says it should make cars lighter and cheaper to produce when it’s rolled out next year.

FILE PHOTO: Annie Ropeik / IPB News

Governor Mike Pence is backing U.S. Steel in calls for an investigation into China’s steel industry.

That’s after the federal government imposed new tariffs on China last week — a move some steelworkers say doesn’t go far enough.

Last month, U.S. Steel asked the U.S. International Trade Commission for a total ban on Chinese steel imports, saying practices overseas have cost thousands of American jobs.

China outpaces the U.S. 10 to 1 in steel production, using government subsidies to stay afloat even while losing money exporting the excess.

WKBN-TV, Youngstown OH

A group of northwest Indiana steelworkers were on Capitol Hill last week, protesting the TPP.  Medill News Service reporter Kristen Vake talked with a few of the protestors, and filed this report.

Sharon Jackson / Lakeshore Public Radio

U.S. President candidate Hillary Clinton is touring Indiana ahead of the May 3rd primary and made a stop in Northwest Indiana.

She visited Munster Steel in Hammond on Tuesday afternoon (4/26) where she discussed her support for the steel industry and protecting the middle class.

Clinton aims to reward companies for investing in America and collect from the ones who reap the benefits of tax breaks and then leave.

ArcelorMittal and the United Steelworkers union reached a tentative bargaining agreement, ending eight months of talks. The union announced the pact to its members in a bargaining update on its website on Wednesday. If ratified, the contract runs until Sept. 1st, 2018.

No contract details were divulged but the union said the agreement “preserves our economic security and other contractual protections.” Union officials called it a “fair agreement” that balances the need of management to save money, while maintaining a standard of living for union workers.

Washington, DC – Congressional Steel Caucus Chairman Tim Murphy and Vice Chairman Peter J. Visclosky have called on President Obama to utilize the newly enacted trade remedy laws.

The steel industry has changed considerably over the last 30 years.  It leaves many wondering about the future of working in the field.

As part of Lakeshore Public Radio’s “Steel on the Lakeshore” series, Lakeshore reporter Sharon Jackson talked with Purdue University Calumet Economics professor Paul McGrath about what’s changed in steel and McGrath says subcontracting is among the big changes.

Steel is still a giant field in Northwest Indiana, but the industry is also looking at other parts of the world at which the local workforce can do the work required to make quality products.

As part of Lakeshore Public Radio’s “Steel on the Lakeshore” series, Lakeshore reporter Sharon Jackson spoke with Purdue University Calumet Economics professor Paul McGrath as part of Lakeshore Public Radio’s “Steel on the Lakeshore” series.

ArcelorMittal is not an American company.  The organization has steel plants all over the world and could locate their operations anywhere they want to, but there are some benefits the company reaps producing in the United States.

Purdue University Calumet Economics professor Paul McGrath spoke with Reporter Sharon Jackson on the future job viability of the steel industry in Northwest Indiana and the United States,  as part of Lakeshore Public Radio’s quarterly issues reporting collaborative, “Steel on the Lakeshore.”

The steel industry has faced several issues recently, including the large tariffs imposed on imported steel due to unfair trade practices.

Purdue University Calumet Economics professor Paul McGrath shared his analysis on the viability of the industry here in Northwest Indiana.

Lakeshore Public Radio’s Sharon Jackson spoke with McGrath about the industry and where it’s going as part of Lakeshore Public Radio’s “Steel on the Lakeshore” Quarterly Issues reporting collaborative.

Much of the news about the Northwest Indiana steel industry focuses these days on improving output and reduced overseas steel “dumping,” thanks to recent tariff increases and other action taken on Capitol Hill.  Times of Northwest Indiana business reporter Joseph Pete talked about these topics, and the Region’s steel industry in general, recently on “Regionally Speaking.”  Pete started with the news of an increase in steel output.

Coal Camp USA

Tyrone Ridgell has made Inland steel his home for over 30 years.  It was not easy to get a job and keep a job as a black man at inland steel but he made it. After retiring  he looks back and says over all been,it was a great experience working at the steel mill. It allowed him to provide a great standard of living for him and his family.

Visclosky: Trade is Steel Industry’s Greatest Obstacle

Feb 16, 2016

The Steel Industry in Northwest Indiana has seen better days. The Steelworkers Union and Manufactures are still in the midst of contract negotiations. The price of steel has been decreasing, resulting in massive layoffs that have dealt a serious blow to the regions steel workforce. Congressman Pete Visclosky, who serves as Vice Chair of the Congressional Steel Caucus, spoke with Lakeshore Public Radio’s Dan Clark about the industry’s current problems as well as what is holding the once booming industry back.

A Hard Time in the Mills

Feb 11, 2016

As part of our examination of the steel industry we have been talking to African Americans some of whom have worked in the steel mills of northwest Indiana for almost 40 years. They tell stories of struggle against tremendous odds about becoming part of the middle class and all that means, most specifically being able to give their families a better life which is after all very Americans story.

Over the next few weeks we will be taking a closer look at the steel industry.

Over a week long series of conversations — Lakeshore Public Radio’s Steven Lattimore talked with a group of African-American steel workers to tell us what it is like working in the mills . Some have as much as 40 years in the mills — some who have worked in the mill for  eight years.