Documentary Focuses on Return of Steel Industry Jobs in Ohio

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Steel industry jobs are returning in Ohio, and a new documentary spotlights residents who have switched careers to work for the country’s largest flat-rolled steel producer, Cleveland-Cliffs.

Carl Kriss, director of the film “Relighting the Flame,” spoke with former social workers and photographers who said their skill sets are relevant in the next generation of steel manufacturing, which has become a high-tech field. These workers are defying stereotypes of what it means to be a steelworker.

“This new generation of steelworkers, because they come from diverse backgrounds, many of them also are coming up with new ideas for how to innovate in steel,” Kriss said. “It’s something that they like about the job.”

“Relighting the Flame” will premiere at 5 p.m. today at the Capitol Theatre, 1390 W. 65th St., in Cleveland. There will be only one screening, but the film will be available to view on YouTube on Tuesday.

Kriss is known to Mahoning Valley residents as the filmmaker behind “Bring It Home,” the 2021 documentary about how the closing of the GM Lordstown assembly plant affected workers there.

According to the Ohio Manufacturers Association, Cleveland-Cliffs facilities employ about 6,200 Ohioans. As of October 2022, the state is home to more than 691,000 manufacturing jobs, with an annual payroll of $44 billion.

Kriss said industrial cities and towns across the nation could benefit from a revitalization of industries like steel.

“It really benefits all of us, when those factories are open,” Kriss said. “Not just the workers who are there, but also the businesses, the schools, the whole community.”

According to the American Iron and Steel Institute, so far in 2024, more than 11 million net tons of steel have been produced in the U.S., down almost 2% from last year.

Cleveland-Cliffs has been buying steel mills for the past several years. It acquired ArcelorMittal’s U.S. properties for $1.4 billion in 2020, including a coke plant on Main Avenue SW in Warren Township. The plant employs approximately 175.

Not all of the news coming from the steelmaker is positive, however.

Cleveland-Cliffs announced this month it will put its Weirton, West Virginia, tinplate mill on indefinite idle, putting 900 employees out of work. The decision came after the U.S. International Trade Commission rejected tariffs on tin and chromium coated sheet steel products from China, Germany, Canada and South Korea.

The U.S. Department of Commerce placed duties on those products in 2023, after Cleveland-Cliffs and the United Steelworkers filed antidumping petitions.

But on Feb. 15, the ITC negated the Commerce action, which was quickly followed by the steelmaker’s decision to shutter the Weirton tin mill. 

Ohio News Connection contributed to this report.

Pictured at top: Lavaughn Miller and her daughter, Ashley Gore, are shown at Cleveland-Cliffs’ Cleveland Works in this scene from “Relighting the Flame.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.