AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — ASARCO has given an official notice of closure for the Amarillo plant, an employee with ASARCO and local union president confirmed to a reporter with MyHighPlains.com. The plant in Amarillo, which once employed hundreds, is set to close. That announcement was made on Aug. 18.
According to the United Steelworkers local 5613 union President, Chance Wade, and mechanic with the Amarillo plant, ASARCO announced it will close its Amarillo refinery and oust about 50 workers (40 union members, two non-union, and eight supervisors).
Wade said the United Steelworkers union was given an official notice of closure. Operations at the plant are already shut down and workers were told that everyone will be kept on for 60 days doing necessary work to close the plant.
In 2020, ASARCO made headlines after the United Steelworkers protested for what they said were unfair labor practices in Arizona and Texas.
“We’re very disappointed in their decision to come in and shut down and, you know, displace all these people that have, you know, essentially been out there for a long time and devoted a career to ASARCO,” said Jose Loya, a USW staff representative for District 13.
Loya said workers went on when it came time to negotiate their contract with ASARCO.
“They would not meet us halfway on anything and so the United Steelworkers and the local unions decided to go on out on strike and we held the picket line for almost a year and finally, we made a conditional return to work.”
According to Loya, about 49 employees went back to work at the Amarillo refinery, and the rest the union continued to help. Meanwhile, he said USW waited for the National Labor Relations Board to hear its case against ASARCO.
“So with that, we started trial last week,” said Loya. “And last week, at the end of the week, we got a letter from ASARCO saying that they had plans to shut down the Amarillo refinery.”
He said USW has been paying strike benefits to workers and will continue to support them through their programs.
“I don’t know how long the doors will stay open, and I don’t know how long it’s gonna take to negotiate the severance package,” he added. “But we’re gonna stay with these guys, you know, the whatever, however long it takes.”
MyHighPlains.com has reached out several times for comment to Grupo México, which owns ASARCO, but has not heard back.
As of a 2014 report, ASARCO employed about 300 employees in Amarillo. ASARCO said it is one of the major copper producers with plants internationally. In 1899 American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) consolated and received mines and mining claims in Colorado and Mexico.
The Amarillo zinc plant was constructed in 1922 and the company name was changed to ASARCO Inc. in 1975 with the close of the Amarillo zinc refinery and commencement of copper production.