Pueblo County commissioners stand with steel mill workers

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PUEBLO COUNTY, Colo. (KKTV) The product that once helped shape Pueblo into what it's known for today could possibly be making its way out.

"The Steel City" could see major economic changes in the near future.

It all stems from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a global trade agreement that some people say will wipe out middle class America.

The agreement is between 12 nations and would essentially break down trading barriers, ultimately resulting in more outsourcing.

It's a problem people like Steven Cruz say they've experienced firsthand. Cruz tells 11 News he was laid off from the steel mill a little over two months ago after working there for four years.

"We got to stop this now. Now is the chance to stop it because if we don't stop it, then you're going to see this all over the place. Pueblo, we're going to get hit hard."

He's not alone. Evraz has laid off more than 450 people this year and the United Steel Mill workers are worried it will just get worse if the U.S. increases its outsourcing.

Monday morning, Pueblo County commissioners took a stand against it. They unanimously signed a resolution to try and stop the U.S. from entering the agreement.

County Commissioner Buffie McFadyen says this decision was easy.

"There's no reason why this nation can't produce its own product like steel and automobiles and other products. Those jobs pay good wages, and they help the community as far as the tax base," she said.

McFadyen says if Congress passes this agreement it's very likely the steel mill in Pueblo would completely shut down, cutting all sources of tax revenue and jobs to the community.

"If this mill were to close, it would be devastating, not only for county government but also for school districts that benefit from those taxes," she said.

Cruz says his family has worked in the steel mill business for generations,and it's a "big part of Pueblo and Pueblo's tradition."

United Steel Mill workers and commissioners both say they can't compete with countries like China, Korea or Malaysia, who don't have the same safety standards as the United States.

"Other countries don't have the quality standards, the OSHA safety standards that we do, and that's a big part of putting out a good product," said Cruz.

McFadyen says when it comes to competing under different standards "it would be almost impossible for America to keep jobs in this country."

Commissioners tell 11 News they're also worried what the TPP agreement would do to the health care system. If the agreement passes it would extend the patent on a pharmaceutical drugs in the U.S from seven to 22 years.

McFadyen says that is "frightening" and there's no telling what it could mean for medication costs.

Pueblo is one of the first counties in Colorado to take a stand against the TPP agreement.

While in the end it will be up to Congress to pass or reject the agreement, commissioners hope this resolution will send a message to state leaders.