Sadly, it is common knowledge these days that elected officials tend to make empty promises. However, I want you to know that I am not one of those elected officials, and I never will be.
On October 16, 2015, AK Steel announced the company would temporarily lay off close to 700 employees at its Ashland Works facility. The company stated that one of the reasons for the temporary layoffs was the “onslaught of unfairly traded imports,” a situation more commonly known as “steel dumping.”
In November 2015, I stood before the Ashland community at a Town Hall meeting and said I would help the situation facing AK Steel’s Ashland Works plant – and I meant it. Since then, I have continued to stay engaged and in touch with all parties, requested constant updates from my Kentucky and Washington staff, and will continue to stay involved.
After AK Steel’s announcement, I had multiple conversations with local and industry officials, including AK Steel’s CEO and Ashland’s Mayor, and then met with Ashland community leaders in person at my Town Hall.
Following these conversations, I sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce urging the International Trade Administration (ITA) to expedite their decision-making process and make a determination before layoffs would occur around December 18th, so the community could incorporate their response into the decisions regarding the status of layoffs. The ITA is not planning to make a final decision until later this year.
My office then coordinated a meeting between civic and economic leaders from Ashland with ITA in Washington, D.C. Additionally, I personally met with those leaders, including Ashland Alliance President Tim Gibbs and Ashland Mayor Chuck Charles, to discuss the pending temporary layoffs.
As we decided, after the meeting with the Ashland delegation, I drafted two more letters to the Obama administration. In a bipartisan and bicameral letter, Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin, Rep. Hal Rogers, and I asked President Obama to expedite a presidential investigation into the accusations of steel dumping before any permanent job losses occur, and use resources at his disposal to correct any market manipulation.
During the time my office has been involved and aware of this situation, there have been two favorable judgments for AK Steel. As a result of those judgments, I sent a letter to the retiring CEO of AK Steel, James Wainscott, asking that he consider preliminary rulings by the ITA finding China and other countries guilty of subsidizing steel when determining how to proceed with Ashland Works. Although this situation is still evolving, those rulings offer some good news.
I know this is an issue incredibly important to the hard-working families in Ashland and the surrounding areas, as well as Kentucky as a whole. I gave you my word when I made a commitment to the community to monitor this situation and aid in any way possible, and I will continue to stay involved on behalf of the community, workers, and families.