How Do You Relocate an Unused Steel Mill?

A dormant steel mill in Fontana, California was sold to a major Chinese steel company. The contract was contingent on the ability of the Chinese steel company to bring 300 steel workers to Fontana to disassemble the steel mill piece by piece, mark each piece, and arrange for the shipment of the pieces back to China where the steel mill would be re-erected outside of Beijing.

There was great interest in having this deal consummated because the community wanted to erect a shopping mall where the steel mill stood and could not do it until this multi-year transaction was completed. The problem was that there was no apparent visa category that could accommodate the assignment of 300 Chinese steel workers at wages far below U.S. steel worker wages.

Our team put together a legal theory and a political coalition to accomplish the desired results. With assistance and support from the Republican Governor of California, the Democratic Lieutenant Governor, the Congressional office with jurisdiction over Fontana, and others, we convened a meeting in Washington of the Department of State, Department of Justice, Department of labor, and INS. We proposed a strategy whereby the Chinese company would transfer the steel workers to the employ of an inactive Pittsburgh subsidiary office that the company had, which would assign the steel workers to the Fontana steel mill project. The steel workers would then apply for L-1 specialized knowledge visas, which did not require payment of prevailing wages or proof of unavailability of U.S. workers. All of the government agencies agreed to this proposal, and the INS and the U.S. consulate agreed to expedite the issuance of the L-1 visas. The steel workers were all able to enter the United States and complete the project. The re-erected steel mill now stands outside of Beijing, China.