A Middle Class Job in Pennsylvania, Provided by Steel

Jeffrey Bonior

Jeffrey Bonior Researcher/Writer, AAM

The Commerce Department on Friday revealed the findings of its “Section 232” investigation into steel imports. Steelworkers and steel companies are now counting on Trump to act to defend good-paying jobs — and our national security — from foreign imports. In an occasional series, we catch up with steelworkers across the country to get their thoughts about the president’s impending decision.

Jim Johnston is a third-generation steelworker. He is a caster-run operator at U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson Steel Works in North Braddock, Pennsylvania.

At the age of 36, he is one of the youngest United Steelworker (USW) local union presidents. He represents the production and maintenance workers at Local 1219 at the Mon Valley steel mill.

Johnston has worked at the mill for 13 years and even though work is steady in the Mon Valley, Johnston fears for the mill’s future.

“Just because we have orders and we’re running and making steel and getting a paycheck every two weeks -  which is great - but how long does that last when your company is not doing well as a whole,” said Johnston. “We need a favorable ruling on the 232 investigations not only for us but the company as a whole.”

Sitting on President Trump’s desk is a document with recommendations from the Commerce Department on a Section 232 investigation into whether China, Russia and a host of other countries are “dumping” their government-subsidized steel into the United States, threatening America’s national security and the domestic steelmaking industry. These foreign countries manufacture steel, drop it into the international market, and sell it for less than American steelmakers can produce the same products. That runs down prices. The American steel industry operates in an open market and cannot compete with foreign government subsidized steel.

Some of our members here don’t realize that thousands of other steelworkers around the country have lost their jobs and their homes. But I can tell you this, that a lot of our members have been strong supporters of President Trump and they have really recognized that this is something he promised and has taken too long to act on. Jim Johnston

One of the reasons the Edgar Thomson Works has been able to continue to operate without massive layoffs is because it has been able to pick up some of the work previously done at U.S. Steel facilities in Granite City, Illinois, Lorain, Ohio and Fairfield, Alabama. These facilities have seen massive layoffs and are running at a bare minimum with frequent shut downs.

“We wouldn’t have as much work if our other mills were up and running and making more steel,” he said. “A favorable 232 ruling will be good for our company as a whole and money can be put back into our plant to upgrade our facility. If our company is doing good, our plant is going to being doing better. They will be able to spend money on capital improvements.

 

 

“Having a good determination on 232 is really going to be crucial for us to say, ‘hey, we are going to be able to forecast for the next two or three years and say we are going to be able to invest this amount of money back into our facilities.’

Johnston overseas nearly 600 workers in USW Local 1219 which is about the same number of steelworkers employed at Edgar Thomson when he was hired in 2005. In the early 1980s, Edgar Thomson had a workforce of more than 2,000 steelworkers with three blast furnaces. Today, Edgar Thomson’s two working blast furnaces are the only ones remaining in operation in Pennsylvania.

Edgar Thomson Works makes steel slabs, some of which are shipped to the U.S. Steel mill in Granite City, Illinois, to provide work for that once-thriving mill. Edgar Thomson Works is the last fully integrated steel mill in Pennsylvania and its workers have not felt the devastating effects that other steelworkers have endured across the country.

“Some of our members here don’t realize that thousands of other steelworkers around the country have lost their jobs and their homes,” said Johnston. “But I can tell you this, that a lot of our members have been strong supporters of President Trump and they have really recognized that this is something he promised and has taken too long to act on. Even the people in our membership that are supporters of Trump realize that this is something that is very important to us and he needs to act on it.”

Working at Edgar Thomson has provided Johnston and his colleagues with a comfortable upper middle-class lifestyle. Johnston owns a home in the desirable Plum Boro section of Pittsburgh.

“I wouldn’t have been able to own a house if it wasn’t for the job I have, the wage I make and the benefits,” said the Pittsburgh native. “This job is not only important to me to maintain my house. When the middle class makes money they spend it, so losing these jobs is tough on communities. So hopefully Trump will get on board on give us something to keep our jobs and bring back jobs at other mills, too.

“I think the president has all the information he needs and now he needs to act on it. He’s had enough time talking and it is time he takes action.”

***

Reposted from AAM

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Alliance for American Manufacturing

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

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