Author Topic: Management notified the union. Now what?  (Read 2368 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

forklift driver

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 375
Management notified the union. Now what?
« on: August 15, 2020, 08:45:27 AM »
The steel mill management notified the union the mill will not be doing any upgrades. They are also demanding wage concessions or the mill will remain closed. Now what?

Tom Rubillo

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 166
Re: Management notified the union. Now what?
« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2020, 01:17:17 PM »
Game over. Without very substantial and expensive upgrades this old, outdated and antiquated facility cannot profitably produce steel in the US.  Those who own the company are now in a very tough spot.  Their best move at this point is to try to cut their loses.  They need to salvage whatever old equipment they can for resale, shipment and use overseas where cheap labor and cheap metal scrap is available. Meanwhile, the time has come for the city to start working on an application to have the site declared a "brownfield" eligible for Superfund clean-up assistance by the EPA.  Since the site is part of Senator Scott's "economic opportunity zone," his office should be of great help.  The county should join in the effort too.  Meanwhile, if mill operators want the city's and the county's cooperation in urging EPA to not purse reimbursement from Liberty's owners for all the costs of cleanup as provided by law (based on the notion they didn't create most of the mess), owners should agree to disassemble all the remaining structures at the mill (salvaging and reselling or recycling the metal themselves) and clear the site.  Since the present owners acquired the mill by purchasing the stock of the prior owners, they purchased liability for the mess the prior owners produced as well as their own mess.  Buy the stock of a company and you buy both its assets and its liabilities.  The cost of cleaning up an environmental mess is a "contingent liability."  The "contingency" is ceasing operations at the site.  (They could have avoided this by not buying the stock but only purchasing mill assets -- equipment and buildings and real estate -- but for whatever reason they didn't do that.  If their lawyers didn't explain the difference before all the papers were signed,, the lawyers should put their malpractice insurance carriers on notice that there is a big pile of crap laying next to a huge fan and the lawyers want to duck).  Anyway, the stock purchase put Liberty's owners on the hook for the cost of clean up of the entire mess.  Whether or how hard the city and the county press to hold the mill owner's feet to the fire to pony up may well have a very significant impact on how hard EPA pushes to be reimbursed for its Superfund expenditures.   The way it works is that EPA takes over, supervises and pays for clean up but they charge all the costs back to the owners of the contaminated site.  EPA's lawyers are very successful at doing this, both out of court and, if necessary, in court.  Whether EPA will give Liberty a break will be up to EPA.  The city, county and Senator Scott can help with that.  But the residents of this entire community deserve very substantial concessions from the company for that help.     We'll now see how much "moxie" elected officials and their employees really have.  Stay tuned.

Marty Tennant

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5785
    • Marty Tennant the PC Doctor
Re: Management notified the union. Now what?
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2020, 08:50:52 AM »
Watching the show. What a tale of woe. Contingent liability and purchasing liabilities? EPA seeks reimbursement? Never knew that. Thanks Tom.
Notice:  All posts made by me are my OPINION.  I am not responsible for any comments by others!  The Citizens' Report is provided as a public service to the citizens of Georgetown County for them to report and comment on the news.

Tom Rubillo

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 166
Re: Management notified the union. Now what?
« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2020, 01:56:09 PM »
Karma.  What goes around comes around, sorta. 

Georgetown's "fathers" were bamboozled by German industrial magnate Willy Korf into thinking that a steel mill in the center of town would not result in any pollution.  (Korf wined and dined city leaders during an all expenses paid vacation/cruise down a river in Germany past a Korf steel mill, but didn't tell them it was shut down for maintenance when touting how clean the air was around the mill.  They never saw the town close up.  No one thought to ask.  Gullible.  Passive.  Inept.)

Now it appears that, after years of very dirty operations in the center of Georgetown, successor German owners persuaded Liberty's overly optimistic investors to believe Donald Trump's campaign promises about restoring the domestic steel industry, put on rosy colored glasses and buy the old, rusting, outdated dirty steel mill that Korf built, not just by purchasing its buildings and equipment -- it's "assets" -- but by purchasing the stock in the corporate corpse of the mill and take responsibility for its liabilities too.  If not karma (sorta), it's certainly something of a double bamboozle.  (They may have thought that purchasing past losses would help them save money on taxes by deducting those losses from future profits.  It's a common tax loophole, but only works if there are profits to write off in the future.  Oops!) 

At this point the passive among us will have to simply wait and see if there's a hat trick of some sort where the residents of Georgetown get bamboozled again and Liberty gets to simply walk away, sticking the residents of Georgetown with the mess that Korf and his successors (Liberty included) have left behind.  That's not karma, really, unless gullibility, ineptitude and passivity are a genetic disorders passed from generation to generation among the local powers-that-be that keeps going around and coming around.

Anyway.....  The only acceptable resolution of this entire mess is to have that entire mess cleaned up.  EPA's Superfund program is the only realistic mechanism that exists to get that done.  Liberty's owners certainly aren't going to simply volunteer to pay the huge costs of cleaning up out of their own pockets.  They are more likely to try to escape responsibility by declaring bankruptcy.  How local government responds in that forum and in the halls of the EPA will have a substantial impact on the ultimate outcome.  Liberty's owners stand to lose quite a lot.  With the cooperation of the city and county as outlined at the beginning of this string of postings, they'll lose less.  That being the case, it is entirely up to local government officials to (1) negotiate with Liberty about its tearing down the mill and salvaging what it can, while (2) at the same time the same local government officials make the appropriate applications to EPA for Superfund assistance, and then both government officials and Liberty (3) lobby like hell with Senator Scott's office, the Governor's office, the SC Dept. of Commerce, DHEC and all state and federal elected officials to get that application approved and then (4) see to it that the long, laborious process of cleaning up the site is successful.  That's a lot of work, but nothing will get done unless the work gets done,  Does anybody really want to live for the next generation or two or three with a huge rusting hulk that continues to deteriorate right in the middle of town?  That's what happens if nothing happens. 

Those who hold public office now are entirely responsible for what happens next.  They volunteered to accept responsibility for the future of the community.  Nobody forced them to run for public office.  Having stepped up to the plate they are entirely (and individually) responsible for the future health and economic well-being of this entire fine community and its residents.  Not to be overly dramatic, but their personal, political and professional legacies will be determined by what they do or don't do.Their eternal souls may be at stake too.  God doesn't like cowards.  David certainly wasn't one.  Joshua wasn't either.  Daniel wasn't.  Jesus wasn't. 

But returning from there hereafter to the here-and-now, there will undoubtedly be a lot of bullying, threats, attempts at intimidation and the like from the usual suspects.  Rich folks don't like to lose money and often resort to these sorts of cowardly tactics, usually by surrogates, lawyers or lackeys at least initially.  But they will ultimately find at the conclusion of lengthy and very expensive lawsuits that any "hold harmless" agreements they may have from the former owners aren't worth the paper they're written on and that EPA's lawyers are more knowledgeable, expert and better than theirs.  They would also come to the inevitable understanding that cooperation with local officials in cleaning up the mess is better for their own economic health that futile fights in court, particularly those against EPA.  Their lawyers will profit handsomely from the fight, but Liberty's owners won't.  They bought a pig in a poke.  Their lawyers let them.  Malpractice insurers take notice.

Meanwhile I suggest that everyone who is interested in the future of the communicate should communicate with elected officials about putting together a Superfund application.    It is your future and it ain't over yet.  Stay tuned to this station for future updates.

forklift driver

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 375
Re: Management notified the union. Now what?
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2020, 09:22:38 AM »
We had our Monday morning conference call about customers and we were told that the steel mill plans to reopen the rolling mill in September but if that fails to make a profit by the end of September they are going to call it quits and file bankruptcy. I wish the local press had a reporter with the guts to report what is going on. A lot of families need to know the truth so they can move on with their lives.

Tom Rubillo

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 166
Re: Management notified the union. Now what?
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2020, 02:11:50 PM »
If they haven't been able to turn a profit during the past several years, what in the world makes them think they can do it in 30 days?  That makes no sense at all.   That sounds more like a little desperate arm twisting in an effort to get wage concessions from the union.  But the truth of the matter is that it would take longer than that to reestablish their presence in the marketplace, particularly during this COVID epidemic and the economic downturn it has created.   

What this means is that the city and county need to gird their legal loins and get ready for a protracted battle over the costs of cleaning up the mess.  They've got to get on a stick and submit their applications to the EPA for Superfund assistance so that the EPA will be a creditor entitled to notice and to participate in the bankruptcy proceedings.  Superfund would have standing as a creditor.  I'm not sure about the city or the county in the absence of that application.  Perhaps if they sent inspectors into the premises now and cited the mill for violation of local ordinances they might, particularly regarding on-site or off-site storage of bag house dust.  That's a toxic waste.  The city and the county better check with their lawyers and do so right away.  That, and the SC Environment Defense Project, the Sierra Club, the Coastal Council and the other environmental groups should do the same.

This is a very critical turning point.  Passivity or "wait and see" will not do.  Getting caught flat footed under these circumstances will be hazardous to the future economic, scenic, and physical health of the community.

Tom Rubillo

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 166
Re: Management notified the union. Now what?
« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2020, 09:32:38 PM »
I sent an email to Scott Harper about all of this.  He said he'd contact the mill manager.  He kept his word and did that.  Read Scott's interview with the mill manager that's posted on GAB News..

The manager denies all the "rumors" circulating about the mill, sorta.  But he also seems to admit, sorta, the "rumor" that the issue of wage concessions has been included in "discussions" about cutting costs,   He also seems to admit, sorta, that the mill can't be profitable without substantial upgrades and those aren't going to be made. (If memory serves me, he did that previously when talking about the potential of making those sorts of improvements )  He also seems to acknowledge, sorta, that the mill will be put back in operation for a month long test period to see whether a profit can be made.   Perhaps forklift driver will reveal the source of his information and offer some additional clarification..   Meanwhile, I'm quite suspicious that there may be something of a race to the courthouse between the city/county/environmental groups/EPA and Liberty that's about to start, with Liberty trying to get bankruptcy protection before the city/county/environmental groups get EPA involved with the property, entitling everyone to notice of the court's proceedings and, potentially, a right to participate in those. 

My opinion:  The city and county should compile and file applications for Superfund assistance to clean up the site ASAP.  I'd recommend that they focus for now on the part of the property that is not used in steel production -- from Wood to Dozier/Front to the Sampit where the old, rusting towers were recently removed.  Filing that application now -- being first in the door as a potential "creditor" or as entities arguably with standing to seek environmental cleanup -- could give the city, the county and/or environmental groups a place at the table as potential "creditors" or the like in the bankruptcy court.  With an application from the city, county and/or environmental groups, EPA would be in a position to assert or argue that it has "standing" to participate and a rightful place at the table too.  At least then they'd have a voice.  Without a voice by someone representing the public interest (the city, county, environmental group or whoever) the outcome is inevitable.  Liberty walks away and all Georgetonians are left holding the bag.

What is true or not -- whether official company denials are sincere or simply "non-denial denials" or "alternate facts" or the like is beside the point.  The underlying realities remain the same.

(1)  The "industrial reality":  The mill is an outdated facility and it's days are numbered.  The potential of its being profitable for any reasonable period of time in the future is not good.   Without substantial and costly upgrades, the mill cannot turn a profit.  Those, according to the mill manager, are not going to be made.  Under those circumstances the is most likely going to shut down permanently in the not-to-distant future. 

(2)  The "environmental reality":   The place is a mess.  Steel making is a dirty, dangerous business.  Electric arc furnaces leave hazardous and toxic materials behind, particularly when used to melt scrap metal.  Lead, chrome, cadmium and other heavy metals contaminate the site.  Bag house dust is particularly toxic.  It is very small and penetrates deeply into the lungs of those who breathe it in.  Not all of it has been captured by that big vacuum cleaner on top of the mill.  Much of it has ended up as fine dust on trees, plants, bushes, houses, fences, signs and just about everything else for decades.  It is the "fugitive industrial dust" whose source very blind DHEC officials said they couldn't locate the source of a decade or so ago.  But back to the point:  The place is a big mess.  The cost of cleaning up that mess -- an environmental time bomb built over more than half a century of very sloppy and dirty production -- will be very large. 

(3) The "legal reality":  It would be fair if those who made the mess had to pay to clean it up.  But in the law, "fair" is something of a four letter word that is spelled with an F.  In the context of Georgetown's steel mill, the bygone owners and operators of the mill who created a most of this huge environmental problem are all gone and off of the hook for the cost of cleaning up after themselves.  Korf built the mill but sold it, if memory serves, to some Arabs.  The Arabs sold the mill to 'Georgetown Steel" or some entity associated in some way, if I recall correctly, with Waccamaw Pottery.  "Georgetown Steel" went bankrupt.  After the mill's bankruptcy, a foreign corporation I'll simply call AM bought it.  AM couldn't make a go of it after trying for several years and shut the mill down, putting it up for sale.  it remained closed for several years. Although there was a lot of talk about what should happen next and the city sponsored a "study" of the problem and future use of the land, nobody did anything to hold AM's feet to the fire to clean the site up.   Politics as usual.  All talk but no action.  In any event, after about two or three years of political hot air, AM it sold all the stock it owned in the mill to Liberty. What this all translates into is that, as a "legal reality," all these prior owners are off the hook.  Whether they got that way by hook or by crook is beside the point.  Only the present day owners are left holding the environmental bag. 

(4)  The "present day" reality:  Today's mill owners quite logically want to escape responsibility for cleaning up the pig--in-a-poke (or, if you prefer, a pig wearing lipstick) they, for whatever reason, purchased.  Whether they actually believed Donald Trump's campaign promises about restoring the American steel industry, were misled by AM or others, were ill advised or actually bamboozled in acquiring the mill, the bankruptcy court is now their only potential escape route from a very big bill from EPA. 

(5)  Now, at the risk of repeating myself, throw into that mix a hybrid "legal/financial reality."  When the present owners were persuaded to do a "stock purchase" of the mill, they purchased both assets and liabilities, including responsibility for the cleanup.  That cleanup will cost an enormous amount of money.  It is a responsibility that those who put up the money to buy the mill will seek to avoid.   If no action is taken to participate in the proceedings in bankruptcy court by the city, county and/or environmental groups by filing a Superfund application, the EPA will not get involved if, for no other reason, because it would have no idea what was at stake.  EPA would have no "actual notice" of the problem, the bankruptcy court proceedings, the economic or environmental danger to the community or anything else.  Under those circumstances Liberty will almost certainly end up getting off scot free even though it has other assets here in the US (that other plant that is producing steel in the mid-west), the value of which could be counted when determining whether Liberty is really "bankrupt" or not.  Their lawyers will disagree with all of this with great vigor, I'm sure, but they've really got no choice because (a) they have a professional ethical duty to "vigorously represent" their client's interests  and (b) they've got to cover their own butts in the event that the decision to make a stock purchase of the mill rather than a simple asset purchase there (buy assets without taking on liabilities) comes back and bites their client (and them) in the ass.

All very interesting.  I'm sure Scott will stay on the story and be in a position to report what the company tells him.  Those who started this line of "rumors" should keep their ears open, check with their sources and update everyone with what they find out.  I'll continue to do color commentary. 

The plot thickens.  Stay tuned to this station for further developments.
 

forklift driver

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 375
Re: Management notified the union. Now what?
« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2020, 08:25:21 AM »
Thank you Tom for validating what I reported to everyone here. And don't worry Scott had already read my comments. He never will admit how much this site has helped him report on what is going on in this town. Either way now we have the mill manager admitting wage concessions are being requested and they are not going to upgrade anything at the mill. Why won't James E. Sanderson, Jr. admit that to his members? A couple of senior members confronted him and he denied it again. And you have to know Jamie is turning red wondering why he signed back up at the mill. I hope someone from the city and county steps up and says ENOUGH. Georgetown is about to get screwed with a big empty pollution site that will be fought over in the courts for years to come. All along the citizens will suffer due to no one getting the site cleaned up so the city can progress.

JW

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 607
Re: Management notified the union. Now what?
« Reply #8 on: August 19, 2020, 09:21:44 AM »
Don't you worry about Jamie. He is getting paid while the mill is idle. And just in case you did not know he had lost his other job so he had no choice but to go back to the mill.

It is a shame the local media is ignoring the fact the mill is closed and will not reopen.

forklift driver

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 375
Re: Management notified the union. Now what?
« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2020, 07:21:04 PM »
I was just watching channel 15 news and they had James E. Shamderson Jr talking about how the port not being dredged is the reason the mill will not reopen. That dog wont hunt James. And he did say the decision on the mill should be made by the end of the quarter. Hey that's the end of September. Another "rumor" is validated by the union leader. HMMMMMMM?

Tom Rubillo

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 166
Re: Management notified the union. Now what?
« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2020, 11:22:17 AM »
Time to clean up the whole mess.  Go to Google Earth and look at the environmental disaster that has been created in the entire area from the steel mill all the way to the port (port included).  The only available and realistic way to address this problem is through EPA's Superfund program.  Google "Superfund" for a complete explanation.  The time has come for local government to apply for that help.  It is your future, not mine.  I'm too old to have one and the only thing left on my "bucket list" is to kick it

Georgetown Times lies

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 211
Re: Management notified the union. Now what?
« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2020, 08:59:37 PM »
Where is the Georgetown Times on the mill being closed and the money for dredging being given to the county council members to buy votes. Is anyone concerned with the jobs that are being thrown away forever?

forklift driver

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 375
Re: Management notified the union. Now what?
« Reply #12 on: September 20, 2020, 08:15:02 AM »
I saw someone who would definitely know what is going on at the mill this morning. He said its game over. The mill will not reopen and city already knows it too. So when will the city leadership start the clean up process so the residents can move on from the lies and pollution?