- Associated Press - Sunday, December 4, 2016

HIBBING, Minn. (AP) - Longtime mineworkers are trying to reshape their future after long and frequent layoffs in Minnesota’s Iron Range.

Two hundred workers at Keetac and another 400 in the area are still out of work due to closures at smaller iron ore facilities, Minnesota Public Radio News (https://bit.ly/2fJEWga) reported. The closures are part of a wave of shutdowns that hit the Iron Range during a downturn in the international steel industry.

“I’ve been laid off seven times from Keetac in 17 years,” said Tony Drazenovich, 47, of Grand Rapids. “That’s a lot of layoffs.”

Workers like Drazenovich said the layoffs often didn’t last long, and he thought it would be no different when he was laid off again in May 2015.

“Everybody at that time was thinking it was just going to be a little blip,” Drazenovich said.

Steelworkers local union 2660 president Cliff Tobey said he believes while some of the members may return to the plant if things turn around, many have decided to leave.

“I’ve heard stories of members just dropping off their house keys at the bank, and basically jumping in their cars and heading out,” he said.

Others have opted to go back to school through a federal program known as trade adjustment assistance, which pays to retrain workers who have lost their jobs because of global trade.

“When we graduate we’ll have another set of skills,” said David Meyer, who was laid off from Keewatin Taconite. “Dedicated employees that want to get a paycheck for their work.”

College of St. Scholastica economist Tony Barrett says workers should plan for a long shutdown because demand hasn’t rebounded enough for the plant to reopen.

U.S. Steel has not indicated when or if it plans to reopen the Keetac plant. Since the election, U.S. Steel’s stock price has jumped 53 percent.


Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org

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