NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -Nearly 400 workers at the Bayou Steel plant in Laplace are losing their jobs and workers and St. John Parish officials said they were caught off guard.
The plant near the Mississippi River produces structural steel and beams and has been a part of the Laplace community since 1979.
Some workers said the first hint they got that they were losing their jobs on Monday (Sept. 30) was from Facebook chatter. Others who had already reported to work said they were called into a mid-morning meeting and told they would no longer have jobs.
"Well, it's going to be pretty difficult because my wife may be able to get insurance through her job, she's a schoolteacher. If it wasn't for her I don't know what we would be able to do right now,” said Charles Gill, who said he went to work at Bayou Steel 25 years ago.
A worker who attended the meeting said the company indicated it was having problems meeting its financial obligations.
"They just told us that we're in a major debt situation and we can't keep ourselves up, there's nothing we can do to try and stay afloat. We just owe way too much money to way too many people,” said Shaun, a worker who was leaving the plant and did not want his last name used.
St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom said she, nor the state was given any advance notice.
"Typically, there's a 60-day timeline where you’re provided with some information that will allow you time to put a plan together to allow you to work with individuals that will be affected. We weren't given that opportunity with this case but we're going to start on it immediately today,” she said.
In a statement, Gov. John Bel Edwards suggested that the effects of the trade war and tariffs are begin felt by some industries in the state.
“The Louisiana Workforce Commission is working with the company, the parish president and elected officials to assist those employees who are directly impacted by today’s news,” said Gov. Edwards. “While Bayou Steel has not given any specific reason for the closure, we know that this company, which uses recycled scrap metal that is largely imported, is particularly vulnerable to tariffs. Louisiana is among the most dependent states on tariffed metals, which is why we continue to be hopeful for a speedy resolution to the uncertainty of the future of tariffs. Meanwhile, we will do everything within our power to help those displaced workers.”
In July 2018, Gov. Edwards wrote President Donald Trump expressing his concerns about the impact of tariffs on the competitiveness of Louisiana ports, Liquefied Natural Gas facilities, agriculture producers and other industries that sustain communities across the state.
Families of the workers are preparing for life without their income.
"I cried for a little while, of course, because as a mother and a wife you start thinking about, oh my gosh, how are we going to make it, but I’m a big believer that God’s going to provide for me and I know that things are going to work out,” said Lisa Gill, whose husband is being laid off.
Bayou Steel issued a statement Wednesday saying, "On October 1, 2019, Bayou Steel Group d/b/a BD LaPlace, LLC, Bayou Steel BD Holdings, L.L.C., and BD Bayou Steel Investment, L.L.C. (collectively, the “Company”) conducted a reduction in force, idled most of its operations, and filed for protection under chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. This unfortunate situation was created by a severe lack in liquidity at the Company, which resulted in a default with its senior secured lender, and created a situation where the Company could no longer purchase raw materials. The Company will continue to engage in limited production to finalize finished goods over the next few weeks and will use the bankruptcy process to sell off the remainder of its inventory and attempt to sell substantially all of its remaining assets via section 363 of the Bankruptcy Code to a strategic or financial buyer that will hopefully re-start operations.