Category: From Alliance for American Manufacturing

The Black Working Class Was Hit Especially Hard by Factory Job Loss and Industrial Flight

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

If you’ve visited the Internet sometime over the past two-and-a-half years, you almost certainly have come across a diner story.

You know the one. A reporter from a big fancy news outlet with its headquarters in New York City or D.C. flies out to a working-class town in Ohio or Michigan or Pennsylvania or maybe even Wisconsin and stops at the local diner — or maybe a sports bar. There, the reporter talks to people over pancakes and coffee or chicken wings and beer about their political opinions and why they think Donald Trump got elected president, then files a story and immediately flies home.

There were so many of these stories in recent years — full disclosure: we shared them and even are featured in some — that predictably there was pushback. One of the criticisms is that these pieces aim to figure out the white working-class voter but leave out the voices of people of color who also live in these places.

While some folks have taken pains to capture diverse voices — Chris Arnade comes to mind — there are examples where this criticism is valid. Slate was among the outlets that critiqued The New York Times for visiting Youngstown, Ohio, but failing to capture the voices of the majority-minority city, which is 43 percent black.

And Slate went a step further, sending reporter Henry Grabar to Buckeye State to get the perspective of “the people in Youngstown, Ohio that the national media usually ignores.” Grabar’s report highlights the unique struggles that the black community in Youngstown has faced over the past several decades, writing that whatever “went wrong for the white working class here went even worse for their black counterparts.”

It’s not just Youngstown. Back in 2016, Gerald D. Taylor — himself a Youngstown native! — highlighted some of these issues in the report Unmade in America: Industrial Flight and the Decline of Black Communities. As Taylor notes, manufacturing in the mid-20th century allowed many black families the opportunity to begin to build a nest egg, own their own homes and move into the middle class.

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How to Create Even More Jobs with Infrastructure Investment

Jesús Espinoza Press Secretary, Alliance for American Manufacturing

You don’t need to be a civil engineer to notice that America’s infrastructure is one big hot mess. Our roads have potholes that rock your car so violently, it feels as if you’re off-roading on the moon; our bridges are so rusty, you risk getting tetanus just by looking at them; and driving through our tunnels, especially if you’ve ever traversed any of New York City’s underwater roadways, is an act of faith.

It’s a no-brainer that we need to do something about the sad state of our infrastructure. More robust infrastructure investment is the first logical step, and it carries the overwhelming potential to create jobs that are directly and indirectly related to these projects.

But how do we maximize those job-generating benefits? Tougher Buy America (not to be confused with Buy American) provisions in infrastructure spending legislation, which likely voters from both parties strongly support, are one way. A more permanent, systemic solution—coupled with Buy America provisions—is slashing the manufacturing trade deficit by two-thirds, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

Josh Bivens, EPI research director and the report’s author, found:

“The number of direct and indirect jobs supported by an increase in economywide spending depends in part on how much of this spending goes to purchase imports rather than domestically produced goods and services. In the case of infrastructure investments specifically, the number of U.S. manufacturing jobs supported depends on the share of purchased manufacturing inputs that is produced domestically as opposed to being imported from abroad.”

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Steelmaker ArcelorMittal Unveils Its First Climate Action Report

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

Earlier this month was World Environment Day, a global United Nations event defined as the “’people’s day’ for doing something to take care of the Earth.”

There’s a host nation each year for the event — this year it’s China, LOL — but also Dave Matthews is a celebrity ambassador, so it’s pretty legit.

In any case, the Alliance for American Manufacturing has long held that American companies and workers have a role to play in reducing carbon emissions and improving the environment. Many already are leading the way, from individual companies like Aardvark Straws, which is helping Americans ditch harmful plastic straws, to the 1,200 U.S. factories and 288,000 American workers who are building clean, fuel-efficient vehicles.

Then there’s steel company ArcelorMittal, which recently unveiled its Climate Action Report, the company’s game plan for cutting its global emissions in line with targets adopted by world leaders in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

ArcelorMittal is the world’s largest producer of steel, and it has an extensive presence in the United States, employing more than 18,000 people at 27 operations in 14 states and Washington, D.C. As such, it’s a leader for the entire steel industry, which accounts for 7 percentof total global emissions worldwide (although it’s worth pointing out that China — which has a steel overcapacity problem to begin with — is driving quite a lot of those emissions).  

But I digress.

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Foxconn Is Looking to Move iPhone Production Out of China… Maybe to Wisconsin?

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

Two big manufacturing stories we’ve been following closely over the past few months are converging.

First, there’s the U.S.-China trade negotiations, which are… so not happening right now. President Trump, emboldened from his recent tariff spat with Mexico, is playing hardball with China, and the Chinese are not backing down, either.

That means that businesses are looking at long-term strategies on how best to survive a trade war between the two nations before things really get out of hand.

One of those companies is Foxconn, which makes a ton of tech but is perhaps best known for manufacturing iPhones in China. Most of the factories that produce the iPhone and its various parts are in China, and Foxconn employs 350,000 people to make them at a massive factory complex in Zhengzhou called “iPhone City.”

Working conditions there are just great and people are very happy.

But I digress. If Trump does indeed follow through on his current plan to place a 25 percent tariff on Chinese imports, the iPhone and other Apple gadgets would take a hit. As The Verge noted, one-third of Apple’s iPhone revenue comes from products imported to the United States from China, so it’s a big deal for the California-based company’s bottom line.

Apple would have to decide whether to pass the cost increase onto consumers, which could raise the price of the already expensive iPhone by up to 16 percent, according to Bloomberg. Demand for the iPhone could then decrease by up to 40 percent. Either way, Apple is in a bad place.

So Foxconn — which relies on Apple for about half of its revenue — is now looking at ways to make the iPhone outside of China and avoid the tariffs. Foxconn executives already have made a big deal about how it is “totally capable of dealing with Apple’s needs to move production lines,” possibly to plants in Brazil, Mexico, Vietnam or... Wisconsin? 

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10 American-Made Father’s Day Gifts Your Dad Will Love

From the AAM

Father’s Day is the day of the year when we get to celebrate and thank all the dads, granddads, and other folks across the country who hold a special place in our hearts. If you are looking for a special way to celebrate your dad — and also support job creation and American makers — check out our list of 10 U.S.-made gift ideas, compiled by AAM's own Luke Ferguson and Joseph Swindal.

1. Allen Edmonds 

Is your dad in need of a new wardrobe? Check out Allen Edmonds, a U.S.-based manufacturer founded in Belgium, Wis. by Elbert W. Allen. To this day, Allen Edmonds is committed to creating quality, carefully-made products all across America. Although the company is most known for its high-quality shoes, it also sells a variety of American-made shirts, ties, and belts. Your dad will be the talk of the barbeque with an Allen Edmonds outfit; check out their Father's Day sale for big savings.

2. Craftsman Tools

That’s right, you’re reading it correctly: Craftsman is back, better, and Made in the USA! Stanley Black and Decker bought Craftsman in 2017 and immediately got to work moving the manufacturing of the well-known tools back to the United States. Likewise, they have regenerated their previously respected name. Although not everything in its line is made locally, Craftsman offers a variety of American-made tools any father would love to have. Whether it’s an addition to his shed or his workshop in the garage, Craftsman has got the tool that will help your father get the job done!

3. Cutco Knives

Knives are essential everyday items that prove to be great Father's Day gifts. Cutco is a knife company based in Olean, N.Y. and is committed to manufacturing all of their products in America — and by members of the United Steelworkers! The company sells kitchen knives, hunting knives, pocket knives —you name it. . 

4. Gibson Guitars

Is your father musically gifted? If so, this is the perfect gift idea for you! Gibson Guitars have been manufacturing some of the highest quality guitars in America since 1903. Based out of Nashville, Tenn., the famed company produces every variety of guitars you could imagine, all Made in the USA. Whether your dad likes to rock out on an electric guitar, or play some classic country tunes on an acoustic, Gibson offers the perfect guitar for you while maintaining a standard of American-made products.

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Wrangler Gets Rooted: Denim Company Rolls Out Fully American-made Jeans

Jeffrey Bonior

Jeffrey Bonior Researcher/Writer, AAM

The history of Wrangler blue jeans is rooted in America. The Greensboro, N.C., company first introduced its authentic western jeans to America’s cowboys in 1947 and eventually becameone of the United States’ most popular brands. 

Today, all the major-brand blue jean companies manufacture most of their products in foreign countries where labor costs are less prohibitive.  

But Wrangler has undertaken a strategy to return to its roots by unveiling a plan to make a line of 100-percent Made in America denim pants. 

Appropriately, the new “authentic American” jeans are known as the Rooted Collection

Wrangler has partnered with single-family farmers to produce five collections with each line of jeans branded with a different state. The Texas and Alabama jeans were available for purchase in April and jeans from Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia will hit the market in late June shortly before America celebrates its independence on July 4. 

The state-specific jeans project is not only about returning some manufacturing to America.Important components of the American-grown cotton plan include conservation, soil retention,land stewardship, sustainability and helping local farmers. 

“One of the original charters of the Rooted project was that the jeans had to be built 100 percent in America,” said Roian Atwood, director of sustainability at Wrangler. “We actually started out with how hyper-local we could go. Could we make a Texas jean that was grown in Texas, cut and sewn all through the supply chain and delivered in Texas? We couldn’t quite achieve that vision because we don’t have that much infrastructure left in the United States for each of the five states. 

“What we were able to maintain is to make sure everything was made in the U.S. including the zippers, rivets and everything else.” 

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Coatesville Aims to Make Steel for 200 Years

From the AAM

Step into the National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum in Coatesville, Pa., and you’ll come across replica after replica of the indomitable submarines, ships and tanks that have defended our nation since World War I. 

All of them originated in the steel mill just a few yards from the museum.

ArcelorMittal Coatesville, the oldest continuously operating steel mill in the country, makes some of the thickest and largest steel plates in North America – steel our nation’s defenders depend upon. Coatesville’s steel mill has long played a crucial role in America’s national security, supplying our troops from World War I up through recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But just a few years ago, it came close to shutting its doors for good.

THE OLDEST STEEL MILL IN AMERICA

ArcelorMittal Coatesville began as the Brandywine Ironworks and Nail Factory in 1810. It has known many names and had many owners over the years, but perhaps was best known as the Lukens Steel Company, the name it carried for most of the 20th century.

Steel from the mill helped build everything from steam locomotives to the St. Louis Gateway Arch to the Walt Whitman Bridge to the World Trade Center. In fact, the steel “tree” beams that withstood the collapse of the World Trade Center are now in Coatesville, while the mill itself helped to rebuild much of the city’s skyline after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.  

And it long played a vital role for our nation’s defense; in 1942, the U.S. Navy even gave Lukens its Navy “E” award in honor of the mill’s work to supply war materials.

In 2003, MittalSteel bought the mill, and it changed names again when the company merged with Arcelor in 2006. And it continued to play a vital role in defending the troops, supplying emergency armor to safeguard America’s combat vehicles during the Iraq war.

But by 2015, the mill simply could not compete against foreign steel, priced far below market value, that was flooding the U.S. market from government-owned steel mills in countries like China.

Things were bad. The mill could no longer afford to replace retirees, let alone expand its workforce. It had counted 840 employees in 2010, but just five years later, employment dwindled to below 500 for the first time in the mill’s history.

“We had taken a pounding,” said Fred Grumbine, who grew up in Coatesville and now works at the mill. “We were all worried about the layoffs and the business and the direction we were going.” 

Fred Grumbine says the steel mill in Coatesville, Pa., means "everything in this community." | Photo by Cathaljine Adams

But relief for Coatesville finally came in March 2018 with the announcement of the Section 232 trade action, which placed tariffs on steel imports.

Vonie Long, a fourth-generation steelworker who serves as United Steelworkers Local 1165 president, recalled that in the two years before the tariffs went into effect, order backlog and shipping tonnage – two important indicators of the mill’s success or decline – were “all over the map.”

 “A pretty good week and then a pretty slow week, then a pretty good week, so it was all over,” Long said.

With tariffs on foreign steel in place, Coatesville’s mill has found its footing in a fair market.

“Our backlog is kind of steady level now,” Long added. “Our shipping tons is kind of a continual, gradual uptick, so I think the tariffs have given us a lot of stability here in Coatesville.”

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[Insert Your Infrastructure Week Joke Here]

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

Three weeks ago, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) traveled to the White House to talk infrastructure with President Trump. It went surprisingly well, and the trio met again on Wednesday to hash out ways to fund a $2 trillion bipartisan plan. Yay!

So... Trump angrily stormed out of the meeting on Wednesday, saying he wouldn't work with Democrats until they “get these phony investigations over with.”

And Pelosi responded that she’s now “praying” for him.  

LOL INFRASTRUCTURE WEEK AMIRITE?!?

Here’s how it went down:

 

Welp.

Trump is clearly playing politics, hitting back at Democrats for their ongoing investigations into him and his administration (and growing momentum to impeach him).

But there might be another reason why Trump decided to blow up the infrastructure meeting — he doesn’t want to have an internal fight with his own party. After all, Congressional Republicans have balked at the $2 trillion price tag of the plan, and Trump’s own chief of staff told people that it would be difficult to pass “any infrastructure bill in this environment, let alone a $2 trillion one.”

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Buy America 2.0 Act Seeks to Close Key Infrastructure Funding Loopholes

Cathalijne Adams

Cathalijne Adams Digital Media Manager, AAM

Infrastructure Week 2019 concluded last week without any big infrastructure announcements — no surprise there. However, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) are scheduled to meet with President Trump on Wednesday to deal with financing for a proposed $2 trillion investment in infrastructure.

Without a doubt, our nation’s deteriorating bridges, roads, water systems and transit are desperately in need of this investment. Indeed, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America’s infrastructure a D+ on its 2017 report card. And Americans agree that it’s well past time that our government concentrate on solutions — recent polling data finds that 81% of likely voters consider infrastructure investment to be a top policy priority.

But critical to the success of any infrastructure investment is the return of taxpayer dollars to America’s workers and communities rather than being sent overseas. Though current Buy America legislation mandates federally funded infrastructure projects utilize goods and materials from domestic sources, loopholes remain.

In an effort to strengthen Buy America and close these loopholes, Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) introduced the Buy America 2.0 Act in the midst of this year’s Infrastructure Week.

“In America, our infrastructure is crumbling, and so is our middle class,” Boyle said. “When Congress moves to rebuild our infrastructure from our roads to our electric grid, we must do so in a way that boosts American workers and manufacturers, creating broad-based economic growth. That means using the high-quality U.S. steel, iron, and other materials made by hardworking Americans. The Buy America 2.0 Act is the only way to make sure that our federal investment in rebuilding our infrastructure is an investment in rebuilding the American Dream, too.”

Buy America 2.0 would extend Buy America domestic sourcing requirements to aviation and public transportation, foreign infiltration of which has recently presented alarming security risks. The bill already has attracted nearly two dozen cosponsors.

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America’s Steel Communities Make a Comeback

From the AAM

For the first time in years, people in steel towns across the country have reason to be optimistic. 

Surging steel imports from countries like China long threatened the viability of these communities. China and other countries heavily subsidize their steel industries, making too much product and flooding the global market. That steel is then dumped into the U.S. market at rock-bottom prices, far below fair market value.

America's steel industry endured the pain of this unfair trade for years. Tens of thousands of workers were laid-off, dozens of mills closed, and entire communities suffered. Our national security also was at risk, since we need steel for the military and critical infrastructure.

In April 2018, the Trump administration initiated "Section 232" action to defend American steel from the onslaught of unfairly traded imports. Since that time, things have stablized. Production is up and thousands of new jobs have been announced, along with billions of dollars in investments. America's steel towns are back to work. 

Granite City is Ready to Make a Comeback

Ever since she was a little girl, Victoria Arguelles dreamt of opening her own café, somewhere that could serve as a gathering place for residents of her hometown of Granite City. 

The tight-knit Illinois community, located about 10 miles northeast of St. Louis, is a quintessential Midwestern industrial town. The city’s main employer is Granite City Works, a U.S. Steel mill that makes hot-rolled, cold-rolled and coated sheet steel products for customers in a variety of industries.  

Arguelles never worked in the mill, and nobody in her family did, either. Instead, she focused on her dream, and opened Kool Beanz Café in 2014, right in the heart of Granite City’s downtown. It quickly became that gathering place she had long imagined.

Then the steel mill shutdown.

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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

A Friendly Reminder