While Trump Weighs Tariffs, Solar and Washer Imports Soar

Matthew McMullan

Matthew McMullan Communications Manager, Alliance for American Manufacturing

We got a new year going! Happy New Year. The president is back and back at it. Seems really refreshed. We’ve already outlined a bunch of stuff we hope to see the White House tackle in 2018, including meaningful action on the deluge of steel and aluminum imports. Hey, the Republicans got their tax bill across the finish line, and the administration said that’s what the hold-up was! Time for action on steel. Workers are waiting.

In the meantime, though, there are other trade kettles boiling, like possible (separate) tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels.

Here’s what's up: Manufacturers in each industry – Whirlpool for washers, and Suniva and SolarWorld for solar panel producers – brought cases to the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), and had to show evidence they had been injured by unfairly traded imports.  

The ITC, according to the Wall Street Journal, agreed with the plaintiffs in both cases, and sent its recommendations to the White House – where it’s up to the president to decide what to do next. Apply tariffs a little? A lot? Not at all? He’s got a lot of leeway.

Whether he does or not, imports of washers and solar panels have skyrocketed. Notes the Journal:

Trade data offer a limited window into companies’ export decisions, which can be influenced by seasonality, demand and trade. But Panjiva trade analyst Christopher Rogers said manufacturers expecting new trade barriers often boost shipments. Their attitude, he said, is: “Let’s get while the getting is good.”

The free-trade-at-all-cost nerds who oppose raising tariffs say those costs will just get passed onto consumers, but – specifically in the case of solar imports – it's hard to argue with the fact the Chinese government subsidizes the heck out of this industry (just like it does to sectors like steel) and it plans to do the same in many other sectors.

Not exactly open market competition! We’ll be watching closely to see what President Trump does regarding these tariff decisions.

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Reposted from AAM

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Alliance for American Manufacturing

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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