U.S. Steel CEO says 10,000 laid-off steelworkers could be called back

Mario Longhi, U.S. Steel CEO, speaking at the World Steel Conference in Chicago last year. He said on CNBC Wednesday 10,000 laid-off steelworkers could be called back to work.

U.S. Steel's CEO raised eyebrows Wednesday when he said on CNBC close to 10,000 steelworker jobs could be restored, but the company later clarified he meant industry-wide and not just at his company.

Longhi said laid-off steelworkers could be rehired because of the ongoing decline in imports and if the economy grows as fast as promised. U.S. Steel laid off hundreds of workers in Northwest Indiana last year, slashed 25 percent of its salaried workforce earlier this year, and dismissed 75 maintenance workers at Gary Works this summer.

Many of the affected workers have been called back as market conditions improved, but Longhi said U.S. Steel could accelerate its investments as a result of new federal policies, including on trade. Granite Works in Illinois is still idled.

"We are already structured to do some things, but when you see in the near-future improvement to the tax laws, improvements to regulation, those two things by themselves may be a significant driver to what we're going to do," Longhi said on the network's Power Lunch show.  "I'd be more than happy to bring back the employees we've been forced to lay off during that depressive period," he said, which "could be close to 10,000 jobs."

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U.S. Steel later issued a statement "clarifying" what Longhi meant.

"Mr. Longhi mentioned the possibility of recalling employees who have been laid off due to a sustained period of difficult market conditions in the domestic steel industry," the company said. "To clarify Mr. Longhi’s comments about recalling laid-off employees, when he was asked if 'your employees' are more optimistic, his response of 'absolutely' was referring to the American steel industry overall, not just to employees of United States Steel Corp."

The company further said that he was referring to the 16,000 workers the domestic steel industry has laid off over the last year because of steel dumping.

"Layoffs at United States Steel have contributed to the total of 16,000, but we do not publicly discuss the number of employees we have on layoff," spokeswoman Erin M DiPietro said. "Market conditions will dictate if, when and how many employees we can recall."


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.