Skip to Content

Union, community react to Hibbing Taconite layoffs

Remaining Ad Time Ad - 00:00

HIBBING, MN -- It's known as the trickle-down effect.

"Mining has a lot of huge impacts on a lot of facets of the Iron Range economy," said Vicki Hagberg, president of the Hibbing Chamber of Commerce.

She said when things are good with the industry everyone benefits, but when things are bad everyone is impacted.

"Each mining job has a spinoff of about two other jobs in our economy on the Iron Range. So, if we have 1,000 jobs that are lost due to mining layoffs we would expect to see another 2,000 jobs on top of that. So, 3,000 total lost in our community."

In this case, it's 650 people being laid off beginning May 3rd as a result of Hibbing Taconite shutting down due to COVID-19. That’s on top of layoffs announced last week at Northshore Mining and Keetac, bringing the total layoffs so far to 1,500.

Chris Johnson is president of Local 2705 representing Hibtac union workers.

He said they saw this coming as the steel industry continues to suffer due to COVID-19, but it doesn't make it any easier.

"Now it's real. For as much as we planned on things going this way, possibly, we're in it and it's real," said Johnson.

Johnson added that, unfortunately, the way his members found out they were temporarily losing their jobs was both frustrating and disappointing, adding that it should have come from the company.

"It doesn't make it any easier when I'm union president and I'm finding out with my members on social media. It's not an easy things to do."

He said he's been taking phone calls and answering questions all-day long and from what he can tell there are mixed emotions coming from those who are impacted.

"We've got some high-risk people with this COVID, according to the CDC, that are kind of at ease from being able to be at home and still have some income come in. Then we have the staunch, I want to work. I've worked my whole life, I want to work."

According to the company’s layoff plan, a small number of those who want to continue working will actually be able to.

"It sounds like 50 of our hourly are going to be left out there for fire watch and some maintenance jobs if something pops up. But, it's going to be a skeleton crew," said Johnson.

As miners prepare for layoffs, the chamber is preparing to step up and fight for solutions.

"We're going to be advocating for their needs, businesses needs, both mining support industries and all the way around, with our legislators to make sure they know the impacts that this kind of layoff has on our community."

Johnson said the union will meet with the company Wednesday to discuss who will be getting laid off.

ArcelorMittal expects to resume production by July 12th.

Johnson said he was told July is a best-case scenario timeframe for people getting back to work adding that he’s unsure if that date is concrete.

Kristen Vake

Anchor, Reporter

Skip to content