Veteran union members step down so young Minntac workers can keep their jobs

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About 350 U.S. Steel workers at Minnesota's Minntac mine have been laid off, and among them are 200 longtime union members who voluntarily stepped away so younger members could keep their jobs.

"God bless them," United Steelworkers Local 1938 Vice President John Arbogast told the Duluth News Tribune. "It's the right thing to do."

Earlier this year U.S. Steel, which has the Minntac mine in Mountain Iron and the Keetac in Keewatin, announced layoffs as it cut back taconite production due in part to cheaper foreign steel imports flooding the market, the United Steelworkers Local 1938 said.

"Now it's young kids with babies [keeping their jobs]. Again it's nice to see that and that's what we are seeing up on the hill," Lowell Carlon, president of the Steelworkers Union 1938, told Northland's NewsCenter. "It's insurance...insurance is everything,"

The 350 workers who were laid off began signing up for unemployment benefits this week, the news station notes.

But the number laid off at the Minntac mine is far fewer than the 700 initially expected. That's because a 32-hour work week is being implemented for at least some of the workers, United Steelworkers Local 1938 said on Facebook.

This is the latest group of Iron Range workers to apply for benefits as steel companies idle their plants.

"This whole issue with the steel industry seems to be mushrooming," Chisholm Mayor Mike Jugovich told the Duluth News Tribune. "But we've been through this before and this will happen again. We will make it through; it's who we are."

About two weeks ago, an estimated 225 laid-off employees of the Keetac mine filed for benefits, the Duluth News Tribune reports. Last week 200 workers at the Mesabi Nugget iron plant and Mining Resources plant learned of layoffs as the facilities will idle for at least two years.

Lawmakers are hoping relief for laid-off workers will come when the special session gets underway. Gov. Mark Dayton had vetoed jobs bills that included aid for workers on the Iron Range.

Minntac is expected to resume full operations in the fall, Northland's NewsCenter says.

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