Members of Congress Want Natural Gas Exported to China to Travel on U.S. Ships

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin arrived in China on Thursday for continued trade talks.

There’s a lot the two nations are expected to discuss this time around – intellectual property, state-owned enterprises, forced technology transfers – and while it remains unclear whether any meaningful progress will be made, it does appear the two nations are inching toward a deal.

Meanwhile, two lawmakers are turning their attention to an issue that hasn’t been getting a lot of press, but could have big implications for U.S. job growth and competitiveness when a deal is finally reached.

Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) wrote to Lighthizer, Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross this week asking the three to ensure that U.S.-flagged and crewed vessels “play a key role” in the transportation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to China.

There’s growing speculation that China will agree to purchase $18 billion worth of natural gas from the United States as part of the eventual U.S.-China trade agreement. While that is good news for the domestic natural gas industry, Garamendi and Wicker also point out that unless U.S. officials step in, those LNG exports will “almost certainly be on foreign-flag vessels operated by foreign crews.”

The U.S.-flag international fleet has declined by nearly 60 percent since 1991 to just 80 vessels. Considering the fleet’s importance to U.S. national and economic security, this certainly does seem like something that needs to be addressed.

And as Garamendi and Wicker point out, growing LNG exports provide a big opportunity to grow the fleet, strengthen America’s maritime security and create thousands of new jobs in the process.

“America is on pace to be the third largest producer of LNG exports by 2020,” Garamendi said in a statement. “If we don’t use these trade negotiations to require our LNG exports to ship on U.S. vessels, the United States will continue exporting its LNG on foreign-flagged ships… These negotiations give us the opportunity to reenergize American shipyards.”

Echoed Wicker: “The United States should seize every opportunity to bolster our domestic maritime industry.”

Along with their letter, the bipartisan duo also plan to introduce the Energizing American Shipbuilding Act. The legislation, which the pair also put forth last Congress, would guarantee that starting in 2025, fixed percentages of all LNG and crude oil exports will travel on U.S.-built, crewed and flagged vessels.

Thousands of new jobs would be created for the domestic maritime industry, Garamendi and Wicker say. The legislation also would require exporters to “provide training opportunities for American mariners in preparation for these future job opportunities,” they write.

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Reposted from the 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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A Friendly Reminder

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