Lawmakers seek health, other benefits for RG Steel workers

FOLLANSBEE - Federal lawmakers are seeking to help laid-off steel workers retain their health care benefits following RG Steel's decision last week to furlough 175 workers at its coke plant in Follansbee.

U.S. Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, both D-W.Va., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, joined Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, both D-Md., in sending letters to U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman. These letters ask them to make sure eligible RG Steel employees and retirees receive benefits to help them seek new employment and have access to affordable health coverage during their layoff.

United Steelworkers of America Local 1190 President Ernie Gambellin said Thursday the 175 workers were furloughed at the Mountain State Carbon coke plant in Follansbee, a joint venture between bankrupt RG and Severstal NA. Three batteries in what's referred to as the "old block" at the coke plant were hot-idled last week, a process Gambellin previously said means they can be restarted when and if conditions warrant.

RG Steel sought protection from its creditors on May 31. Despite the ongoing bankruptcy proceedings, Gambellin said the newly laid-off workers are entitled to sub-pay.

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