Newly elected US Rep. Nikki Budzinski visits Metro East

Making her way to the south end of her district, U.S. Rep. Nikki Budzinski, D-Illinois, stopped in Monday to visit with the staff and children at the Riverbend Head Start program in Granite City.

Showing some serious skills with crayons and safety scissors, Budzinski joined one class of youngsters crafting cards for the “Valentines For Veterans” program.

“I could stay here all day,” Budzinski said as she pared a heart from construction paper to put on a card. “This is a great stop.”

U.S. Rep. Nikki Budzinski, D-Illinois, work on a “Valentines For Veterans” Monday at Riverbend Head Start in Granite City. Working with her are Sirena Lopez-Rush, center, and Amaya Walker. (Photo by Joe Holleman)

Budzinski is a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and also serves on its health subcommittee. She started the program last month and will distribute the cards her office has received to veterans in her district.

The Riverbend organization has two locations in Granite City and serves about 550 children in the Metro East area.

After a 90-minute visit that included a bunch of hugs and a bit of dancing, Budzinski said her day’s visit to the area would evolve into more serious issues: She planned to meet later Monday with retired members of the United Steelworkers.

“The Granite City Steel situation is one I’m watching closely and plan to be involved with,” said Budzinski, who garnered strong union support in her 2022 election win.

Last year, U.S. Steel announced plans to sell a large portion of the mill to Chicago-based SunCoke Energy.

The company was formed in 1896 and was known as Granite City Steel for more than 70 years. In the 1970s, it became National Steel; then the Granite City Works after U.S. Steel bought the company in 2003.

The sale of the mill, which now has about 1,500 employees, would likely reduce the workforce by two-thirds over a two-year period.

“That’s up to 900 jobs moving to Arkansas,” Budzinski said. “And that’s not good.”

Steel shutdown: U.S. Steel will cut 950 jobs at its Granite City Works when it ends primary steel production there. David Nicklaus and Jim Gallagher say the mill’s age made the closing inevitable, despite protection provided by steel tariffs.

David Nicklaus

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Your weekly capsule of local news, life advice, trivia and humor from Post-Dispatch columnist Joe Holleman.

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February 13, 2023 at 05:21PM

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