Steel companies, unions set goals
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HARRISBURG -- The steel industry and its workers are forging a new alliance to press for legislation and policies they believe will help grow their segment of the economy.
"We realized there could be a better effort on our part to help lawmakers and the public understand the impact of the industry on the economy," said Christopher Masciantonio, manager of government affairs for Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel.
Workforce development, infrastructure and natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale are three areas where the Pennsylvania Steel Alliance will focus its efforts, Mr. Masciantonio and Ike Gittlen, of the United Steelworkers union, said in telephone interviews.
The industry and its workers have the same goals in those areas, they said. Where there's disagreement, the alliance won't take a position.
Their interests extend further than their own mills. Rather, they are concerned for policies that affect manufacturers who use steel in their industries as well as those affecting energy production.
"Steel companies consume a lot of energy, so having a reliable cost-competitive supply of natural gas really helps the industry," Mr. Masciantonio said. More than that, if Pennsylvania reduces environmental regulations, more companies will want to drill in the Marcellus Shale region, and that will create a demand for steel pipes to carry the gas, he said.
"There are a lot of companies tied into the supply chain for natural gas," he said.
The alliance plans to advocate for infrastructure spending, the opening of state-guaranteed lines of credit for manufacturers and for the use of slag, a steel byproduct, in road construction.
Growing the industry is good for the economy, Mr. Gittlen said.
"It's a job that provides excellent wages. It provides health care. It provides benefits, and people that have these jobs really add to the communities," he said. "They add to the tax base in a very sincere way. Lawmakers should be thinking about that if they really want the focus to be on jobs."
In 2010, the average wage in the iron and steel mills industry was $70,686 -- $25,000 more than the average wage in the private sector as a whole, according to a study released Monday by the Pennsylvania Economy League of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
For more information, visit www.pasteelalliance.com.
First Published October 25, 2011 12:00 am