USW to House: Properly-Used Tariffs Protect Working People

USW to House: Properly-Used Tariffs Protect Working People

Roy Houseman
AFL-CIO

The following testimony was provided to the House Ways and Means Committee:

My name is Roy Houseman and I am here on behalf of the United Steelworkers union, which is the largest industrial union in North America, representing workers not just in steel and aluminum but in many other industries too.

United Steelworkers sees first hand that the steel and aluminum 232’s are providing essential relief from global overcapacity, ensuring the domestic industry will be able to supply the necessary materials for our national security and critical infrastructure needs. The domestic, privately-owned industry in the world’s largest free market can remain competitive if we guide a course against an onslaught of what is all-too-often government-planned and financed, non-market driven expansion of steel and aluminum production.  

The steel and aluminum tariffs are working as intended. According to the American Iron and Steel Institute, 1.4 (1,401,000) million more tons of domestic steel have been produced so far this year than the year prior. In aluminum, our members and other workers are on track to aid in a domestic aluminum production increase of 60% by the end of year. While the increase in domestic operating capacity cannot all be attributed to just the tariffs, they are having the intended effect.

More personally, it is good to hear from local union leaders like James Sanderson at Steelworkers local union 7898 in Georgetown, South Carolina. After a three-year idle, their wire rod facility has restarted putting 125 workers back to work and producing up to 750,000 tons of steel per year. As orders rise, the company says another 195 people will be hired at the mill.

The same goes for Dan Simmons at USW Local Union 1899 in Granite City, Illinois. After more than 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.

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. 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. So we can sympathize with businesses as they work through the exclusion process but we are quite frankly tired of being told that unilateral action to protect American industry from global overcapacity is a bridge too far.

And, as a TAA recipient myself, I know the pain and uncertainty that they have experienced.

From day one, the union has said that where there is insufficient domestic capacity or undeveloped market potential exclusions will be necessary. The last review of exclusion requests the union has seen indicates that close to 200 requests have been granted and just under 400 requests have been denied by the Department of Commerce. Our member companies have filed objections to product lines they know they have the capacity and capability to produce. Additional business opportunities are being pursued by our member companies and we welcome the opportunity to compete for that work.

And where products to meet our nation’s needs are truly unavailable, we do not object to waivers. Our members not only produce steel, but they are also users of that steel in fabrication and other downstream facilities.

The Department of Commerce still faces tens of thousands of exclusion requests and we support continued efforts to increase staffing and resources at the Department of Commerce to process these requests.

However, I do not work at the Commerce Department and USW urges the committee to bring in administration witnesses to give detailed updates on the exclusion process and use the oversight role this committee has over trade. USW does believe many of the issues related to 232 implementation can be remedied through providing additional resources.

The USW disagrees with the administration’s policies in a number of areas, but undermining the domestic steel and aluminum industry and our security interests by allowing a flood of excess capacity and foreign imports wash away our member’s 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. We have been, and will continue to be a willing partner in seeking a solution to global overcapacity in steel and aluminum while ensuring a timely and fair exclusion process.

Kenneth Quinnell
Tue, 07/24/2018 – 15:21

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Updated: August 2, 2018 — 11:23 pm