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U.S. Steel warns state layoffs will affect up to 307 workers at East Chicago Tin

United States Steel plans to idle East Chicago Tin.

U.S. Steel warned the state of Indiana its "indefinite idling" of East Chicago Tin because of an abrupt decline in the tin can business will displace 307 workers, though the steelmaker said the total number of layoffs will more likely total around 150.

Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel said it hopes to transfer more than 150 displaced workers to Gary Works and the Midwest Plant in Portage, where it also operates tin mills.

The company has filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification, or WARN, with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development saying all units, divisions and departments at the tin mill would be affected when it is idled November and December.

"The indefinite idling of operations is due to the consolidation of the company's tin mill products production from three to two facilities following extensive market analysis of our current global competitiveness in light of high levels of low-priced imported tin mill products entering the United States," U.S. Steel Employee Relations Director James Van Buren wrote in the WARN letter to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. "The idling is not expected to be permanent but will be of an indefinite duration."

U.S. Steel said the employment losses from the indefinitely idling will start on Nov. 9 and continue through the end of December.

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"We currently expect that the total number of employees that will experience employment losses will be less than 150," Van Buren wrote in the letter. "However, the exact number are subject to discussions with the United Steelworkers."

U.S. Steel estimates the plant idling will displace 98 utility technicians, 78 maintenance technicians, 53 utility persons, and 49 operating technicians, as well as quality assurance engineers, managers, clerks and other positions at the mill at 101 E. 129th St.

It's the second time in four years U.S. Steel will idle the tin mill that makes tin-plated metal for canned foods, paint cans and tin products — markets which have generally been in decline for years. The announcement followed Del Monte saying it would shutter two tin canning plants, laying off more than 800 workers, and ArcelorMittal USA announcing it would lay off employees at the ArcelorMittal Weirton tin mill in West Virginia.

U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal USA blamed a flood of cheap imports, while Del Monte has said its bottom line has been hurt by steel tariffs of up to 100%. The tin can business has been declining as younger consumers gravitate more toward fresh foods and companies like Campbell's and Swanson use more plastic microwavable packaging for their soups to cater to customers craving convenience.

East Chicago Tin, which U.S. Steel acquired from LTV in 2001, had employed nearly 400 workers when it was last idled in 2015. That was during a steel import crisis when imports seized nearly 30% of the U.S. market share, resulting in thousands of layoffs nationwide.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.