6-1-12: The Future of Steelmaking in Baltimore County
Today we’re going to look at the future of steelmaking in Baltimore County. The Sparrows Point steel mill used to define Baltimore’s manufacturing economy. At its peak in 1959, what was then Bethlehem Steel employed over 30,000 workers, according to the Baltimore Sun. Now? It’s more like 2,000.
Today’s Sparrows Point is a little like the Baltimore Grand Prix—it’s hard to keep track of who’s in charge.
The plant has seen several owners since Bethlehem Steel went bankrupt in 2001, including three owners in the last five years. The current owner is RG Steel, part of Renco Group. Several news organizations have reported that RG Steel filed for bankruptcy yesterday.
In late May, RG Steel idled the Sparrows Point mill and told the union that all of its employees could be laid off. We called RG Steel on Wednesday, but haven’t heard back.
Yesterday afternoon, just after news of the RG Steel bankruptcy filing broke, we spoke with Joe Rosel, who is the president of the affected union, United Steelworkers Local 9477. Rosel is still hopeful the plant could attract a new owner.
Today we’ll hear from Rosel, as well as steel industry analyst Michelle Applebaum and Baltimore Brew reporter Mark Reutter about prospects for Sparrows Point to find a new owner and keep making steel.
Then we’ll talk to Deborah Rudacille, author of Roots of Steel: Boom and Bust in an American Mill Town, and former steelworker Peter Selhorst, about how steelworkers handle the turbulence as the plant continues to burn through owners.