USW among those testifying in Senate hearing regarding China and our economy

Click here to watch the hearing live.

One of our legislative directors Roy Houseman is among the witnesses testifying today on behalf of workers in a hearing about China and the economy.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Policy is meeting today remotely to conduct a hearing entitled, “US-China: Winning the Economic Competition, Part II.”  

Click here to download a printable version of Houseman's remarks, which are as follows:

Chairman Cotton, Ranking Member Cortez-Masto members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I commend the committee for uplifting the voice of organized workers in this discussion and our International President Tom Conway gives his regards.

The United Steelworkers is the largest industrial union in North America, representing workers throughout the manufacturing sector as well as other sectors.    We understand the impact of  China’s economic competition  on the average worker in America. 

Our first effort in competing with China must be to invest in the basic infrastructure necessary to make Americans feel safe from the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting with an immediate COVID-19 relief bill for the millions of Americans currently laid off. We also need to immediately advance a regulatory framework that ensures workers feel safe returning to work. OSHA and MSHA standards dealing with a pandemic are sensible to anyone who has stood shoulder to shoulder in a processing plant or who have had to go through a lock out, tag out procedure. 

As the country starts receiving the vaccine and containing the pandemic, the existing challenges we faced prior to the epidemic related to the nation’s infrastructure, labor force and international competitiveness, will only become clearer. 

Since such a large percentage of our members manufacture today’s high-tech metals and materials, I want to provide focus on how China’s near monopoly or market dominance has impacted workers here and undermined U.S. competitiveness. For example, in

  • Steel - China now accounts for over 51 percent of global production
  • Aluminum – China’s share of global output touched 57% in May.
  • Rare Earths - China not only holds 35 percent of the world’s entire rare earth supply, but accounts for 70 percent of global production.
  • Rail – CRRC, a Chinese state-owned enterprise, calculates they controls roughly 83 percent of the global rail market and in 
  • Fiber Optic Cable – China’s production reached 61.6% share of the global total in 2019

These levels of production or capacity can swing prices, prevent domestic entry, and have led to 205 anti-dumping and countervailing duty remedies slapped against firms in China. Each of those orders represent not just a recognition that China committed illegal trade practices but also that during a three-year period a domestic industry lost jobs, cut benefits, and/or lost market share.

The U.S. government should respond to China’s state capitalism through a mix of policies and investments that recognizes state economic power must be met with reciprocal state economic power. 

We are a twenty-two trillion-dollar economy and simple investments would allow us to get goods out the door, whether it’s steel or the next generation of medicines. Yet those products have to travel on our crumbling infrastructure. In 2019, the U.S. spent just 2.5 percent of our GDP on infrastructure, down from 4.2 percent in the 1930s while China spends around 8 percent of its GDP on infrastructure.

We need to upgrade our ports, our roads, expand broadband, build out our critical minerals, and improve our education system. Our union members want that work. Yet, American workers aren’t guaranteed that their tax dollars will go to expand the manufacturing infrastructure to compete with China. This leads to a simple fix. It’s expanding our Buy America provisions to ensure the money Congress approves doesn’t inadvertently go to jobs in China. 

Another investment we should make is expanding our Manufacturing USA program. The 14 Manufacturing USA institutes conducted nearly 500 major applied R&D projects to broad industry. Legislation like the LEADS act by Senator Schumer and Menendez expands this successful program. 

We should also expand the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program. A network made up of the 51 MEP Centers has led to American firms creating or retaining over 114,000 manufacturing jobs in fiscal year 2019.  We should build on this success and expand the program.

Lastly, we need to press back against China by building a robust unionized working class. Reducing wealth inequality in America will unleash a spending potential that will propel us into the future. 

The economic competition between the U.S and China will be a generational rivalry. The United Steelworkers believes our country with the proper investments, planning, and commitment to our most powerful asset - the American worker - will be how we succeed in that rivalry. 

Thank you and look forward to answering any questions.


Press Inquiries

Media Contacts

Communications Director:
Jess Kamm at 412-562-6961

USW@WORK (USW magazine)
Editor R.J. Hufnagel

For industry specific inquiries,
Call USW Communications at 412-562-2442

Mailing Address

United Steelworkers
Communications Department
60 Blvd. of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA 15222