The change at Commercial Metals Co.’s Arrow Route factory also puts an end to its melting operation, which was one of the few remaining plants in California where law enforcement disposed of seized firearms.
The facility will remain open and continue producing rebar for the construction industry made from steel shipped from other factories. But they will no longer buy and melt scrap metal, including guns confiscated from felons by police departments.
One employee who received a layoff notice, speaking on a condition of anonymity because he feared retribution, said law enforcement agencies from as far away as Fresno dropped off guns on a regular basis, as did the police and sheriff’s departments from Los Angeles.
Bill Russell, a spokesman from the Ontario Police Department, said they were looking for other ways to dispose of the weapons.
“We know that there’s a place in Arizona that melts firearms, but that’s just not feasible for us,” Russell said. “We’re looking at alternatives.”
Jodi Miller, a spokesperson for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, said their weapons are dropped off at CMC about three times a year. She said the department should have enough time to find another way to dispose of the guns.
Miller said the weapons could be shipped north for destruction, and she said the state’s Department of Justice offers the same or similar disposal services.
Paul Ortiz, an employee of CMC’s melt shop and the president of Local 8065 of the United Steelworkers of America, said the gun melting represented about 7% of the scrap the company had been buying. He said that about once a year, the Los Angeles Police Department delivers a large cache, an event that frequently makes television news shows.
CMC, an Irving, Texas-based company with factories in three continents, did not respond for requests for comment, but a company spokesperson released a statement when the layoffs were announced Oct. 11.
“The burdensome regulatory environment and cost of doing business in California has put the Rancho Cucamonga melt shop at a severe cost disadvantage in the highly competitive rebar market,” the statement said. “Therefore, CMC has decided to shutter the melt shop and supply the rolling mill from excess melt capacity throughout our system of lower-cost mills.”
CMC and other steel companies bring in long, square-shaped slabs of softened steel, called billets, and heat and shape the steel into rebar. The company bought the Rancho Cucamonga location from Gerdau, a Brazilian company, in November 2018. Gerdau bought it from TAMCO Steel in 2010.
Because the California Employment Department was not informed of the layoffs at least 60 days before they began, CMC will continue to pay employees their wages and benefits for that time frame after they leave. Also, a worker said severance packages include $3,000 for workers who had been there for five years or less and $9,000 for 30-year veterans.
Ortiz, the union president, agreed with the company on the high cost of operating a steel plant in California.
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“The electricity costs are killing us, and there are all sorts of environmental restrictions,” he said, adding that a lot of the steel being used in the United States comes from foreign countries with few air pollution controls.
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