Steelworkers Remind Congress that Real People are at the Heart of the Steel Crisis

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

There’s a whole lot of discussion these days about the Trump administration’s trade policies, particularly when it comes to tariffs.

Criticism of the tariffs dominates much of that debate, but what often gets lost is recognition that workers across the country have long been hurt by China’s unfair trade practices, including the 15,000 steelworkers who found themselves in the unemployment line because of China’s massive unchecked global steel overcapacity.

And those are the people who Roy Houseman urged Congress to remember when he testified before a House Ways and Means subcommittee on Tuesday.

Houseman, who works for the United Steelworkers, told committee members that the Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum are creating thousands of good-paying union jobs while also protecting these critical industries, which supply our defense and critical infrastructure.

Indeed, nearly 7,000 direct jobs have been created since the 232 investigations began in April 2017, with “tens of thousands of additional, indirect jobs resulting,” Houseman testified.

“It is good to hear from local union leaders like James Sanderson at USW local union 7898 in Georgetown, South Carolina. After a three-year idle, their wire rod facility is restarting, putting 125 workers back to work immediately… as orders rise, the company says another 195 people will be hired at the mill,” Houseman said.

“The same goes for Dan Simmons at USW local union 1899 in Granite City, Ill. After over two years, their facility is in the process of restarting both of their basic oxygen furnaces with 800 union members getting recalled and bringing close to 3 million tons of additional slab capacity for the domestic market.”

Houseman noted many of these workers spent years struggling because of the steel imports crisis, which stems from China’s government-subsidized industry. China’s state-run steel companies make way more steel than they need, price it below fair market value and flood the global market.

Years of talks with China have yielded little results. China repeatedly promised to make less steel — and repeatedly broke those promises.

"These are local leaders striving to do the best for their communities and membership. They want to ensure we produce the steel and aluminum products this country needs to supply our defense and critical infrastructure needs while being commercially competitive." Roy Houseman, United Steelworkers

In response, the U.S. issued a series of tariffs on specific imports from China. But China found ways around the tariffs and continued to flood the global market. The crisis continued. And in places like Georgetown and Granite City, people struggled.

The Trump administration’s decision to issue tariffs on imported steel and aluminum was designed to be a wider-reaching response to China’s overcapacity, and have helped stabilize the American industry.

The administration also allowed companies who depend on imports of steel products that cannot be adequately produced in the United States to apply for exclusions from the tariffs — and that process was the focus of the subcommittee hearing on Tuesday.

Houseman noted that while these businesses deserve sympathy as they go through the bureaucratic exclusion process, it’s unfair to say that “unilateral action to protect American industry from global overcapacity is a bridge too far.” After all, those workers in places like Georgetown and Granite City know what that’s like first hand.

“I highlight these sites because the union also helped draft and secure their Trade Adjustment Assistance petitions not that long ago when they were idled, submitting them into a bureaucratic process that often takes months, but can even go years to work through,” Houseman said. “And, as a TAA recipient myself, I know the pain and uncertainty they have experienced.”

Houseman said the union does not object to waivers “where products to meet our nation’s needs are truly unavailable.”

“Our members not only produce steel, but they are also users of that steel in fabrication and other downstream facilities,” he added.

But Houseman also noted that any efforts to undermine the steel and aluminum industries in the process and allow imports to “wash away our members’ jobs and devastate communities is not a solution.”

“We will be the first to agree that the process must improve, but the union also cautions against efforts to undermine 232 tariff relief,” he said. 

Watch Houseman's testimony below:

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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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