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Leo W Gerard: Don’t Dawdle on Economic and National Security

The future of the American steel and aluminum industries is not a matter for dithering.

Steel worker takes a sample from oven

Each mill and smelter that remains operating is too vital. Each is too crucial to the economic viability of a corporation, a community, and thousands of workers and their families. Each also is too essential to national security, which relies on American-produced metals for critical infrastructure, from bridge construction to the electrical grid, and for munitions, from fighter jets to bullet-proof vests.

There is no more time for waiting. International trade law must be enforced now. Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump pledged his support to workers and these industries. And he followed through by launching within three months of taking office as president special investigations into the effects of steel and aluminum imports on national security. Such inquiries may take as long as a year to conclude, but the administration expedited the process. Until it didn’t. Now steel and aluminum corporations, their communities and their workers are being told to wait. It’s a delay that could kill more American mills and smelters.

The nation lost nine aluminum smelters over the past six years, leaving only five in the entire country, and most of them are now operating at reduced levels. Beginning in January 2015, steel companies laid off 14,000 workers as they closed mills and sections of mills. For example, Allegheny Technologies shuttered a plant that made grain oriented electrical steel in 2016, leaving only one U.S. company, AK Steel, now producing this component critical to electricity transmission.

As mills and smelters disappear, the military is further restricted in its ability to secure domestically produced essential metals in time of crisis.

The primary culprit in this scary scenario is overcapacity and overproduction in China, which overwhelms the world market with illegally subsidized, grossly underpriced aluminum and steel.

China has promised repeatedly to solve this problem. On Thursday it pledged again, this time contending it wanted to work globally to deal with the issue of aluminum overcapacity – a problem Beijing created. Over the past six years, using massive government subsidies, China quickly ramped up capacity to become the largest aluminum producer in the world.

China can’t be trusted on this because it never keeps its promises. It has never cut its steelmaking capacity after announcing again and again that it would. In negotiations last week, Trump cabinet members could not even get a specific commitment out of China to do it. There’s no evidence China will stop overproducing steel or aluminum now. Waiting is useless. And destructive to American manufacturing.

The American steel and aluminum industries have fought back, filing and winning dozens of trade cases against imports of specific products. But the resulting tariffs and other penalties imposed by the U.S. Commerce Department and U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) didn’t solve the problem. Instead of paying U.S. tariffs, China shipped its government-supported excess of these products to other countries, artificially suppressing world prices and warping what is supposed to be a free market.

Also, this traditional process for seeking relief from unfair trade takes too long. More than a year may elapse before companies and workers get a final decision. And that will be for just one product, like aluminum extrusions, aluminum foil, welded stainless steel pressure pipe or corrosion-resistant steel, to name a tiny number of cases from recent years.

That’s part of what made the special investigations into steel and aluminum imports so attractive. If the U.S. Commerce Department determined under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 that imports of steel and aluminum jeopardized national security, then the president could impose penalties broadly to ensure the country could meet its own needs. The effort might also spur allies to join the United States in finally pressuring China sufficiently to actually reduce capacity.

Although Section 232 allows for nine months of investigation, after which the President would have three months to determine a remedy, the administration promised quick action when it announced the inquiries in April. The steel report was to be completed by June 30, with a speedy decision by the president after that.

That suggested the administration understood this was urgent.

But June 30 came and went. Now there’s an official delay. The administration told the Wall Street Journal that the steel investigation is on hold until after health care reform, tax changes and infrastructure spending are accomplished.  “We don’t want to do it at this moment,” the president said Tuesday of the steel case.

That’s devastating. Especially because steel imports have jumped 22 percent since Jan. 1, placing additional pressure on the American industry.

The delay occurs as efforts are made by a new company to reopen at least one potline at an aluminum smelter in New Madrid, Mo., that the now-bankrupt Noranda company idled last year. Postponing the Section 232 decision makes for uncertainty for these investors.

It also occurs as a Chinese company is trying to buy Aleris, an Ohio-based manufacturer that supplies aluminum for use in vital infrastructure and military applications. That Asian firm, China Zhongwang, is accused of dodging tariffs and is under civil and criminal investigation for possible smuggling, conspiracy and wire fraud by the Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security and Commerce Department.

Maybe the Aleris smelters would keep operating if China Zhongwang bought them, but at what risk to national security?

The delay occurs as companies that buy steel fear monger that tariffs or quotas would raise prices.

An expert, Stephen Koplan, chairman of the U.S. ITC under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, says that’s hogwash. “Predictions of disaster were wrong 15 years ago when I chaired the ITC, and they are wrong again today,” he wrote in an op-ed in The Hill newspaper this week.

When President George W. Bush imposed tariffs and quotas on steel imports under Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974, there was no price shock afterward, according to a study by the nonpartisan U.S. ITC.  Here is what Koplan, who also served as an attorney at the Small Business Administration, wrote:

“Downstream industries were not devastated by higher steel prices. Nor was the U.S. economy thrown into depression. The U.S. steel industry, however, earned a much-needed relief as the result of action taken by the president that allowed it to restructure and reinvest for the long term. In other words, the Section 201 measures worked as intended.

“We are facing similar challenges again today. . .Now, however, U.S. national security is at great risk if firm action is not taken immediately. The U.S. primary aluminum industry is on the verge of disappearing entirely, and the U.S. steel industry is not far behind.”

AK Steel Corp. CEO Roger Newport agreed with Koplan’s assessment that this is not a time for dawdling, telling the Commerce Department in his testimony on the steel case:

“High-end electrical steel is an incredibly difficult product to manufacture, as it requires a significant amount of dedicated, capital equipment and a sophisticated, well-trained workforce. Therefore, if AK Steel were to exit the market, there would be no operational electrical steel manufacturing equipment in the United States, the specialized labor and related expertise in operations would be lost, and many of AK Steel’s talented operators and researchers would either relocate to other businesses, industries and/or foreign countries, or become unemployed.”

Workers’ and companies’ economic security is at risk. The nation’s security is at risk. Resolution of these cases should be speeded, not delayed.

Leo W Gerard: “Do No Harm” Still Hurts

Photo of locked gate at closed steel mill by Getty Images.

Promises were made.

And workers believed candidate Donald Trump when he pledged to stop corporations from exporting American factories. Workers cast votes based on Trump swearing he would end the trade cheating that kills American jobs.

This week, though, workers got bad news from Washington, D.C. President Trump proposed virtually eliminating funding for a Labor Department bureau that helps prevent U.S. workers from having to compete with forced and child labor overseas. In addition, the administration issued only vague objectives for renegotiating the job-killing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

When NAFTA has cost at least 900,000 Americans their jobs, vague is unacceptable. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said his first rule in negotiations for a new NAFTA would be to “do no harm.” That’s not good enough. That’s the status quo, and promises were made. The first rule should be to “do substantial good.”

Substantial good would start with clear, firm goals for renegotiating NAFTA. That would include returning those 900,000 jobs to the United States. That would include restoring the jobs the United States continues to lose, like the 350 that disappeared this year when Rexnord closed its Indianapolis ball bearing factory and moved production to Mexico. And like the 632 jobs at Carrier in Indianapolis that will begin vanishing this week when the first layoff notices are issued because the heating and air conditioning manufacturer shifted some production to Mexico.

In Monterrey, where both Rexnord and Carrier moved jobs, the minimum wage is $3.90 a day. Not an hour. It’s $3.90 a day. There is no way for American workers to compete with that. What they were looking for from the NAFTA renegotiation goals is some help.

Instead, they got pabulum. Yes, there’s a whole section on labor, and it says the labor provisions should be in the main document, not in a side agreement. But the fuzzy language doesn’t provide much hope for workers like those who just lost their jobs at Carrier and Rexnord.

It says, for example, that NAFTA countries should have laws regarding minimum wage, hours of work and occupational health and safety. That’s great. But Mexico has a minimum wage. It’s one so low that, as former presidential candidate Ross Perot would say, it sucks American factories right across Rio Grande.

The NAFTA negotiation targets don’t say that the minimum wage should be a living wage or specify how it would be policed to prevent forced and child labor.

Within the U.S. Department of Labor, there’s a section called the Bureau of International Labor Affairs that monitors compliance with labor provisions in international trade agreements and pays for programs to reduce child and forced labor internationally. The intent is to prevent American manufacturing workers earning family-supporting wages from competing with third world children paid with bread and blankets.

The administration has, however, said it wants to gut that program, cutting its funding by 80 percent. In addition to workers, American food and clothing corporations have objected. Nate Herman, a senior vice president for the American Apparel and Footwear Association, told the Washington Post that without the bureau’s efforts, “you’re saying, basically, that it’s okay for forced labor and child labor to run rampant, which undercuts our own labor force.”

Without specific protections in NAFTA and without even the Bureau of International Labor Affairs programs, U.S. workers are subjected to a no-win competition with exploited foreign workers. The Americans end up unemployed, like those at Carrier and Rexnord. The foreign workers continue to be abused.

Promises were made to American workers. They need to be kept. Big league, not halfway.

For example, the solution to Carrier, owned by United Technologies, moving out of Indiana was a half measure.

United Technologies spared about 700 jobs at the Indianapolis Carrier plant only after Vice President Mike Pence, then governor of the state, handed the corporation $7 million. None of the 700 jobs at the other United Technologies plant in Indiana was saved. All of those went to Mexico.

That’s not what Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail. At a rally in Indianapolis last spring, he pledged: “Here’s what’s going to happen. They’re going to call me, and they are going to say, ‘Mr. President, Carrier has decided to stay in Indiana . . . One hundred percent. It’s not like we have an 80 percent chance of keeping them or a 95 percent. 100 percent.”

But then, it was President-elect Trump who called Carrier. And it wasn’t 100 percent. It wasn’t even 80 percent. And, to make matters worse, United Technologies CEO Greg Hayes said that the millions he’d promised to invest in the plant would be spent on automation, further reducing jobs.

This is, according to the Trump administration, Made in America Week. It began at the White House Monday with a showcase of products produced in every American state, from fire trucks to door hinges. But to really revive American manufacturing, the administration must keep its campaign promises. And that means strong language in a renegotiated NAFTA and strong enforcement of other international trade deals and trade laws.

“No harm” is not enough for the administration that promised to cure the injury that international trade inflicted on workers.

Leo W Gerard: Trump Offers Fool’s Gold to Fund Infrastructure

Image from USW / Getty

Donald Trump surrounds himself in gold. The signs on Trump buildings shimmer in it. His penthouse in New York is gilded in it.

He claims now to have found the alchemy to conjure $1 trillion in infrastructure gold. He plans to put up a mere $200 billion in federal funds and stir it together with $800 billion in private investment and state dollars.

That is fool’s gold. A falsely-funded infrastructure program is a massive broken promise. America needs real improvements to roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, airports, water systems and railways. That requires a commitment of real tax dollars, not the relinquishment of America’s public assets to profit-seeking private Wall Street entities. Americans should not be charged twice for maintenance of the public good, once through tax breaks to investors and again in outrageous tolls and fees the investors charge.

On Wednesday, standing on the banks of the Ohio River in Cincinnati, Trump reiterated the pledge he made repeatedly on the campaign trail to put $1 trillion into infrastructure. He said “restoring America” is a promise that Washington, D.C., has broken. “It has not been kept, but we are going to keep it,” he said.

“Taxpayers deserve the best results for their investment,” he said, “and I will be sure that is what they get.” But the plan to turn over public assets to private corporations for tax-supported investment is gold only for the 1 percent who can afford to invest.

The Wall Street Journal reported last fall that to raise the private funds, Trump planned to give massive tax breaks of 82 percent of equity to investors that help pay for infrastructure repair. For citizens, that’s a crappy deal – giving Wall Street control over public assets in addition to being forced to fork over the taxes that rich investors will not pay.

That financial alchemy creates poison, not gold.

In addition, there is no profit in many types of infrastructure that need repair, like schools and hospitals. A corporation can’t collect tolls from children entering their elementary school each morning.

Despite Trump’s promise in Cincinnati that he would take care of rural areas, there’s no profit in many crucial infrastructure projects in such regions. Investors won’t pay for a highway needed to connect two isolated towns in West Virginia.

And the profit in some projects is highly questionable. Several corporations that have bought or built toll roads have filed for bankruptcy. This includes highways in Texas, California, Indiana and Alabama.

In other cases, the profits reaped are outrageous. After Chicago sold its 36,000 parking meters to Morgan Stanley, the Wall Street bank doubled the parking rates and charged the city tens of millions annually for meters Chicago took out of service for street repairs, mass transit stops and safety. A city inspector general report on the deal says Chicago under-priced the meters by nearly $1 billion when former Mayor Richard M. Daley signed the 75-year contract in 2008. The bank is expected to make back its $1.15 billion investment by 2020, giving it 60 more years to rake in pure profit on the backs of Chicago taxpayers who paid to install the meters and who feed them daily.

That’s gold for Morgan Stanley, grief for taxpayers.

Another part of Trump’s financing plan is to shift infrastructure costs to states and towns. This also cheats too many citizens. Sure, some places high on the hog like Silicon Valley might be able to afford that. But too many will be left out.

That’s because large numbers of cities and states are facing fiscal crises. Chicago sold its parking meters to fill a budget shortfall. In Oklahoma, where there’s a $900 million budget gap, schools are so underfunded that 96 of the state’s 513 districts have reduced the school week to four days and another 44 may be forced to do that in the fall. The state has shuttered rural hospitals, overcrowded its prisons and limited state troopers to 100 miles of driving a day.

In Kansas, with a $1.1 billion budget deficit, the state Supreme Court just ordered the legislature to properly pay for its schools. The court said Kansas’ under-funding meant inadequate education in basic reading and math for students in one fourth of its public schools. The state shortchanged half of the state’s black students and a third of its Hispanic pupils.

Illinois hasn’t had a budget for two years. The state’s credit rating has been downgraded eight times. It has accrued $14.5 billion in unpaid bills. As a result, more than 1,500 public university and community college workers have been laid off and untold numbers of social service agencies have closed or severely curtailed services.

Other states, including Connecticut, Kentucky, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, face massive pension shortfalls after years of failing to properly pay into the funds.

These places aren’t going to be able to jump up and take on the federal government’s responsibility to invest in infrastructure.

Even the $200 billion that the Trump administration is saying the federal government will provide is in question. It’s in the budget Trump submitted to Congress, but also in that budget is $206 billion in cuts to existing infrastructure programs, including those conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Army Corps of Engineers. That’s the very Corps of Engineers that would pay for the river lock and dam projects that Trump complained Wednesday in Cincinnati were grossly underfunded, causing costly breakdowns.

That kind of budgeting is bad alchemy. That’s not $1 trillion in infrastructure gold.

Trump said Wednesday, “We will build because our people want to build and because we need them to build. We will build because our prosperity demands it. We will build because that is how we make America great again.”

That sounds wonderful. But to build, projects must be properly paid for. And so far, the Trump administration has offered only pyrite.

Leo W Gerard: Workers Want A Green Economy, Not A Black Environment

The BlueGreen Alliance

To justify withdrawing from the Paris climate change accord, President Trump said during his press conference yesterday, “I was elected to represent the city of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

From terrible experience, Pittsburghers know about pollution.

Before Pittsburgh’s renaissance, the streetlights Downtown frequently glowed at noon to illuminate sidewalks through the darkness of smoke and soot belched from mills. White collar office workers changed grimy shirts midday. To the west 130 miles, the polluted Cuyahoga River in Cleveland burned – several times.

Pollution sickened and killed. It triggered asthma and aggravated emphysema. In Donora, just south of Pittsburgh, an air inversion in 1948 trapped smog in the Monongahela River valley.  Poisonous steel mill and zinc plant emissions mixed with fog and formed a yellow earth-bound cloud so dense that driving was impossible. Within days, 20 people were dead. Within a month, another 50 of the town’s 14,000 residents succumbed.

Some viewed pollution as a blessing, a harbinger of jobs. Air that tasted of sulfur signified paychecks. For most, though, pollution was a curse. It meant scrubbing the grime off stoops daily. It meant children wheezing and gasping for air. It meant early death.

The preventable deaths are why my union, the United Steelworkers (USW), has fought against pollution for decades, long before scientists conclusively linked it to global climate change. That connection made combatting pollution even more urgent. It crystalized our obligation to save the planet for posterity. Signing the Paris Climate Accord last year committed the United States to preserving what we all share, the water and the air, for our children and their children. Donald Trump’s withdrawal from that agreement moves the United States, and the world, back in time to rivers so toxic they burn and air so noxious it poisons. Trump’s retreat makes America deadly again.

Don’t get me wrong. The USW supports job creation. But the union believes clean air pays; clear water provides work. Engineers design smokestack scrubbers, skilled mechanics construct them and still other workers install them. Additional workers install insulation and solar panels. Untold thousands labor to make the steel and other parts for wind turbine blades, towers and nacelles, fabricate the structures and erect them. Withdrawing from the Paris Accord diminishes these jobs and dispatches the innovators and manufacturers of clean technologies overseas where countries that continue to participate in the climate change agreement will nurture and grow them.

Eleven years ago, the USW joined with the Sierra Cub to form the BlueGreen Alliance because USW members believe Americans deserve both a clean environment and good jobs. The USW believes Americans must have both. Or, in the end, they will have neither.

The Alliance, which now includes more than a dozen unions and environmental groups, has collaborated with industry leaders to find solutions to climate change in ways that create high -quality jobs.

It’s an easy sell to many corporate leaders. Shortly after the election last fall, hundreds of companies and investors, including the likes of Nike and Starbucks, signed a letter asking Trump to abandon his campaign rhetoric about withdrawing from the Paris Accord.

In April, more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies, including giants Google, BP and Shell, also wrote Trump urging against reneging on nation’s climate commitment. They said that because the agreement requires action by all countries, it reduces the risk of competitive imbalances for U.S. companies that comply with environmental regulations.

More recently, Apple CEO Tim Cook told Trump that disavowing the accord would injure U.S. business, the economy and the environment. Tesla CEO Elon Musk told Trump that if he turned his back on the accord, Musk would resign from two White House advisory boards.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, also urged Trump to keep the United States’ commitments under the 195-nation pact, rather than joining Syria as an outlier. Syria and Nicaragua are the only non-signatory countries, but Nicaragua declined to sign because its leaders felt the accord was not strong enough.

The streetlights never switch on at noon in Pittsburgh anymore. The Cuyahoga River now supports fish that live only in clean water. Donora’s sole reminder of those dark days in October of 1948 is a Smog Museum.

But the United States remains the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas polluter. It has an obligation to lead the world in combating climate change. Great leaders don’t shirk responsibility.

Leo W Gerard: Speak Loudly And Carry A Big Aluminum Bat

During this very month last year, aluminum smelters across the United States were closing, one after another. It was as if they produced something useless, not a commodity crucial to everything from beverage cans to fighter jets.

In January of 2016, Alcoa closed its Wenatchee Works in Washington State, costing 428 workers their jobs, sending 428 families into panic, slashing tax revenue counted on by the town of Wenatchee and the school district and devastating local businesses that no longer saw customers from the region’s highest-paying manufacturer.

That same month, Alcoa announced it would permanently close its Warrick Operations in Evansville, Ind., then the largest smelter in the country, employing 600 workers, within three months.

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Worker at Alcoa’s Warrick smelter in Evansville, Ind., before it closed in 2016. Photo by Steven Dietz, Sharp Image Studios, Pittsburgh.

Then, Noranda Aluminum fell. It laid off more than half of the 850 workers at its New Madrid, Mo., smelter in January, filed for bankruptcy in February and closed in March. The smelter was a family-supporting employer in a low-income region, and when it stopped operating, the New Madrid County School District didn’t get tax payments it was expecting.

This devastation to workers, families, communities and corporations occurred even after Ormet had shuttered a smelter in Ohio in 2013, destroying 700 jobs and Century closed its Hawesville, Ky., smelter, killing 600 jobs, in August of 2015.

It all happened as demand for aluminum in the United States increased.

That doesn’t make sense until China’s role in this disaster is explained.

That role is the reason the Obama administration filed a complaint against China with the World Trade Organization (WTO) last week. In this case, the president must ignore the old adage about speaking softly. To preserve a vital American manufacturing capability against predatory conduct by a foreign power, the administration must speak loudly and carry a big aluminum bat.

The bottom line is this: American corporations and American workers can compete with any counterpart in the world and win. But when the contest is with a country itself, defeat is virtually assured.

In the case of aluminum, U.S. companies and workers are up against the entire country of China. That is because China is providing its aluminum industry with cheap loans from state-controlled banks and artificially low prices for critical manufacturing components and materials such as electricity, coal and alumina.

By doing that, China is subsidizing its aluminum industry. And that is fine if China wants to use its revenues to support its aluminum manufacturing or sustain employment – as long as all of the aluminum is sold within China. When state-subsidized products are sold overseas, they distort free market pricing. And that’s why they’re banned.

China agreed not to subsidize exports in order to get access to the WTO. But it has routinely and unabashedly flouted the rules on products ranging from tires to paper to steel to aluminum that it dumps on the American market, resulting in closed U.S. factories, killed U.S. jobs and bleak U.S. communities.

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Worker at Alcoa’s Warrick Operations in Evansville, Ind., before the smelter closed in 2016. Photo by Steven Dietz, Sharp Image Studios, Pittsburgh.

In 2000, China produced about 11 percent of the aluminum on the global market. That figure is now 50 percent. A big part of the reason is that China quadrupled its capacity to produce aluminum from 2007 to 2015, and increased its production by 154 percent.

When China threw all of that extra, cheap, state-subsidized aluminum on the global market, it depressed prices. In that eight-year period, the price sank approximately 46 percent.

To compete, American smelters tried cutting costs and getting better deals on electricity. But even as U.S. demand increased, U.S. production declined 37 percent. And capacity decreased 46 percent.

What capacity decrease means is closed plants. The number of smelters dropped from 14 in 2011 to five last year, with only one operating at full volume.

Many of these manufacturing workers, thrown out of their jobs by what is clearly unfair trade, saw President-elect Donald Trump as a champion. Donald Trump said he would hold China to account on trade. He promised he would impose massive tariffs on goods imported from China. He said he would confront Beijing on currency manipulation, a practice that makes Chinese goods artificially cheap.

Many of those manufacturing workers voted for Donald Trump. Monroe County, Ohio, is a good example. That was the home of the Ormet smelter. The workers, who belonged to my union, the United Steelworkers, and the company asked Ohio Gov. John Kasich in 2012 and 2013 to intervene with the utility to get lower rates to help Ormet survive.

Kasich refused. The smelter closed. Monroe County’s unemployment rate now is the highest in Ohio at 9 percent, nearly twice the national rate.

Monroe County voters didn’t forget. Theirs was among the counties in Ohio that went for Donald Trump in the Republican primary. Though Trump didn’t win the Ohio primary, he got 35.9 percent in the crowded GOP field, and he took virtually all of the places in Ohio that, like Monroe, would say Kasich and other politicians turned their backs on them.

President-elect Trump carried 29 of Ohio’s Appalachian counties in the primary, those described as “geographically isolated and economically depressed.” These are counties that, like Monroe, lost family-supporting jobs in steel, manufacturing or mining. For the workers who haven’t left, the jobs that remain, in retail and fast food, don’t pay much, don’t provide benefits and aren’t secure.

When Donald Trump came to town talking tough about China, that sounded a hell of a lot better to those workers than their governor telling them he wouldn’t help with electrical rates – especially after they watched the governor in New York work a deal to save an Alcoa smelter and 600 jobs for 3 years in Massena.

And, of course, Donald Trump won Ohio in the General Election.

Workers across America, from Sebree, Ky., and Mt. Holly, S.C., where Century smelters are threatened to Wenatchee, Wash., where Alcoa has held out the possibility that the smelter could be restarted, were galvanized to support Donald Trump by his promises to confront China on its predatory trade practices.  If he fulfills those pledges, he will have the back of the blue-collar workers who had his.

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Worker at Alcoa’s Warrick smelter in Evansville, Ind., before it closed last year. Photo by Steven Dietz, Sharp Image Studios, Pittsburgh.

Western Kentucky Steelworker says Trump’s steel deal is more proof that ‘he’s just selling snake oil’

By BERRY CRAIG

AFT Local 1360

Donald Trump (Jamelle Bouie FLIKR)

Donald Trump (Jamelle Bouie FLIKR)

Steelworker Jeff Wiggins of Reidland, Ky., isn’t surprised at the Newsweek story that says Donald Trump used Chinese steel and aluminum instead of American-made metal in at least two of his last three building projects.

“Not at all,” said Wiggins, 55, president of Steelworkers Local 9447 in Calvert City, Ky. “Trump is a two-faced, lying snake in the grass. How’s he going to make America great again when he’s using Chinese steel and Chinese aluminum to build his buildings?”

Wiggins’ disdain for Trump is also personal. The Gerdau Ameristeel plant where he’s worked for 33 years is slated to close next month, leaving more than 100 union members jobless.

The company is idling the mill because “the Chinese are flooding the market with cheap steel, and people like Donald Trump are buying it,” Wiggins said.

According to Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald, “Trump opted to purchase his steel and aluminum from Chinese manufacturers rather than United States corporations based in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.”   

Before Eichenwald’s article was published, Trump, at a Pennsylvania rally, promised, “We are going to protect our steel workers. We can’t let China take advantage of us any more.”

Trump predicted, “Pennsylvania steel will build this country like it built the Empire State Building many years ago. And Pennsylvania steel and the incredible steel workers will send new skyscrapers into the clouds.”

Eichenwald also wrote that “Plenty of blue-collar workers believe that, as president, Donald Trump would be ready to fight off U.S. trade adversaries and reinvigorate the country’s manufacturing industries through his commitment to the Rust Belt. What they likely don’t know is that Trump has been stiffing American steel workers on his own construction projects for years, choosing to deprive untold millions of dollars from four key electoral swing states and instead directing it to China—the country whose trade practices have helped decimate the once-powerful industrial center of the United States.”

Wiggins says he knows Trump has been shafting American workers for years. Also president of the Paducah-based Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council, he points out that clothing and many other products that Trump sells stateside are made in China and other low-wage countries.

“Why doesn’t he bring those jobs back? He’s just selling snake oil, and people are buying it.

 “He’s a guy who makes money off other people–tells them lies. How’s he going to bring manufacturing back when he’s buying stuff from over there? He’s going to do whatever is cheapest for him where he can make the most money. He doesn’t care about American jobs.”    

Steelworkers Blast Trump Over Use Of Cheap Chinese Steel

Union Launches Awareness and Education Campaign: Trump Betrayed USW Members, Families and Communities for Cheap Chinese Steel and Aluminum 

The United Steelworkers (USW) today launched an awareness campaign to educate union members after Kurt Eichenwald’s investigative report for Newsweek exposed Donald Trump’s use of Chinese steel and aluminum for several recent, high-profile construction projects.

In light of the report, which outlines how Trump purchased the steel and aluminum from China using shell companies in the British Virgin Islands to cover his tracks, USW International President Leo W. Gerard called the Republican candidate’s statements about foreign trade and the need to create and maintain jobs in America’s manufacturing sector “hypocritical” and “fundamentally dishonest.” 

“Trump desperately tries to appeal to Midwestern working class voters with promises to stand up for American workers and bring manufacturing jobs back to Ohio and Pennsylvania,” Gerard said, “but he sold out those very workers, their families and communities to save a few dollars on cheap building materials from Shanghai and Guang-Dong.”

“With 13,000 people laid off in the steel industry and another 6,000 out of work in Aluminum, Trump personally profited from his scheme to cheat American companies and workers out of hundreds of millions of dollars in sales that went to China instead,” Gerard said. “How can he make America great if he refuses to make anything in America?”

Hundreds of USW activists and volunteers are already spreading the message that Trump cannot be trusted to protect American jobs. The union also will continue to educate its members about the GOP candidate’s anti-union, anti-worker record – from supporting so-called “right-to-work” legislation to the way he’s refused to negotiate employees at his hotels and casinos.


The USW represents 850,000 men and women employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in public sector and service occupations.

Leo W Gerard: Solidarity Against Trump

Donald Trump likes to say he has a very, very good relationship with unions.  “I have great relationships with unions,” he told Newsweek last year.

And the press is in love with saying blue-collar workers are in love with Trump. Real reporters and even fake news shows like Full Frontal with Samantha Bee have crisscrossed the rust belt interviewing blue-collar workers seeking the reason for Trump’s supposed allure.

The AFL-CIO has found, however, that only a small faction, fewer than a third, of its members are Trump supporters. That’s true in my union, the United Steelworkers (USW), as well. And the numbers are declining daily as members find out the truth about The Donald, including how he managed to lose a whopping $916 million in one year and his failure to pay federal income taxes.

Particularly important to my members is the issue of trade because we are a manufacturing union, with members making not just steel, but tires, glass, paper, cardboard, aluminum, auto parts and many other products. When Trump promises to arbitrarily slap 25 percent and 35 percent tariffs on unfairly traded commodities from China and Mexico, that sounds great.

That is, until the voter discovers a U.S. president can’t unilaterally impose tariffs. Also, until the voter discovers Trump manufactures virtually all his signature products, from suits to shirts, sweaters, belts, ties, tie pins, tie clips, and dozens of others, overseas. Not by American workers in America. Trump could have created American jobs. But he chose not to.

Here is what some members of my union had to say about the difference between The Don and Hillary Clinton:

Michael D. Snyder, 58 of Decatur, Ind., works for Bunge, which makes food oils. A union man for 39 years, he’s been president of USW Local 15173 for 21 years.

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“You need to look at the whole package and history of a candidate for president. Look at the whole package of Trump. I see someone who has done nothing but take from people in this country. There is a huge list of people who are suing him for taking from them, and that is disrespecting the American people.

“It is a power game. He has got all the money. He knows he can do all these terrible things. He knows he may have to pay, but not until he is forced to by court. And people have to wait years to get some portion of the money owed. That is just terrible and disrespecting every American. That kind of person should not be president. It is inconceivable to put that person in charge of this country.

“In our churches, we would pray for this person because they are totally lost. It is hard to understand how a Christian would say OK to this kind of behavior.”

Marlon S. Williamson, 45, of Warren, Ohio, works at ATEP Alcoa. He has been a Steelworker for 20 years.

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I got a job at what was once Republic Steel in Warren, Ohio, when I was 23 years old. It was a great union job. But, beginning in 2008, I was laid off for 17 months because of dumped [foreign] steel. Those were hard times. I returned to work, but then, just a few years later, in 2012, management informed us the mill would be scrapped. I was stunned. I was shocked. It was because of a mix of bad management and dumped steel.

“I can’t even drive down that street now. I had worked there 17 years. At the time you are searching for answers. Imports contributed to that, with all that illegal dumping of steel.

“A lot of prayers got me the job at the titanium plant. I was very fortunate. I was off for four months. Some of the guys I used to work with are still out of work.

It is devastating.

“I support Hillary Clinton because she supports the working man and woman. She says exactly how she is going to do that. If we get her in office, maybe someone will pass that Bring Jobs Home Act, that denies tax credits for sending jobs overseas and gives credits for bringing jobs back here.

“Also, I have a daughter. My youngest child is a daughter. I do not want her to see Donald Trump as our country’s leadership. He mocks a guy with a handicap. He degrades women. He picks on immigrants. That is totally the opposite of what her mother and I have taught her.”

Kristia O’Brien, 45, is a veteran who lives in Gadsden, Ala. She has been a member of USW Local 12 for 22 years. She is a tire builder at Goodyear in Gadsden.

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My mother lost her garment factory job that she had for 20 years as a result of NAFTA, and I almost lost my job because of trade. So Hillary Clinton’s opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and her statement that she would not support any more free trade deals that don’t work for working people is really important to me.

“My mom worked for H.D. Lee, the jeans company, in Guntersville, Ala. She sewed the inseams. She has rheumatoid arthritis now, but she made a good living because it was a union job. But she lost that job when the plant went to Mexico. And another garment factory about 15 miles away went to Mexico too a few years after NAFTA was passed.

“Later, my plant was threatened by a flood of imported Chinese tires. President Obama imposed three years of tariffs on those unfairly traded tries to prevent American factories from closing and American jobs from being lost. I have a job today because of that. I do trust Hillary to do the same kind of thing. She has stood for working families and unions her entire life. Her father came out of manufacturing and she understands the importance of manufacturing in America.”

James Morgan, 30, of Belleville, Mich., works for Chemetall Group. He has been a member of USW Local 2659 for five years.

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I am working to elect Hillary Clinton for my unborn child, to make sure when he or she comes into the world, it is a better place, not a Donald Trump place. I want this to be a country that is accepting, a country that provides plenty of opportunity. Hopefully when he or she comes into this world, we have free college tuition and things like that.

“I want this to be the land of the free where we accept everyone whether you are black, Asian, Mexican or Muslim. We have all contributed. And that is what made America what it is.  We can’t shun people.  It is not just an American value. Acceptance absolutely is a union value. If you have been to a union event, you see people from all walks of life, and they are people who accept people from all walks of life.

Heidi Puhl, 44, of South Range Wis., a member of USW Local 9460 for 10 years, works at Ecumen-Lakeshore, a short term rehab facility in Duluth, Minn.

2016-10-02-1475419675-8289336-Heidi.jpgMy father and grandfather worked on a railroad, the Duluth, Mesabi & Iron Range line. It hauled taconite pellets from the Mesabi Range to Lake Superior where they were shipped to steel mills. There was a railroad roundhouse in my hometown of Proctor, and in the harbor in the winter, typically dozen ships would arrive in winter to be overhauled.

“It’s all gone now. The railroad is shut down. Half the ships arrive to be overhauled these days. The town’s grocery store, pizza shop and ice cream parlor are all closed. And it’s because illegally traded steel flooded the U.S. market, shuttering American mills. And that eliminated the demand for taconite.

“Bad trade deals created pockets of nothing in our small towns. Hillary Clinton says she will put a stop to that. I believe she can. Donald Trump is all talk and no experience. I don’t believe he can do anything.

“I know people who support Trump. But is that how you want your daughter to be talked to? Is that how you want your son raised? Is that how you want your mother treated, your grandmother or grandfather treated? That is not our personal values. That is not the values of anybody in America. I do not think Trump has the right temperament or the right morals to be president.

“I am working to elect Hillary Clinton because I do not want my kids to be raised in a place where it is okay to make fun of someone because of their disability or the color of their skin or their religion.

“I like that Hillary worked for the Children’s Defense Fund. I like that she took a job that did not pay well to do public service. I think that says a lot about a person. I know someone who graduated with Hillary, and she says Hillary is the nicest and most sincere person. Hillary still goes to college reunions with her. That says a lot about her.”

Jerry August, 30, of San Bernardino, Calif., has been a member of USW Local 5632 for three years at GATX, where he rebuilds railcar valves to ensure they don’t leak and cause an explosion.

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My family is Hispanic. My grandparents came from Mexico. The way Donald Trump talks about undocumented immigrants is morally incorrect. It is not right. People should be given a chance to do what they can for themselves, to do better for themselves and their children and their future.

“To throw 11 million undocumented immigrants out of this country – why throw them out?  Why not get them documented and let them work? It is not morally right. They are not taking jobs. They are doing jobs no one else wants to do. The majority of people will not do the jobs they are doing. The jobs are there for everybody. These are hard labor jobs for pennies an hour.

“Trump harassed a judge of Mexican heritage whose father was a Steelworker. It is just ignorance. It is insulting. Ignorant people are just going to do ignorant things.”

“Coming from a Hispanic family, I still have family members who do not speak good English and who struggle to make good money, and I know Hillary Clinton will try to help us get to an even playing field. I feel that it is admirable that she has always tried to help the less fortunate.”

Terra Samuel, 43, of East Chicago, Ind., a member of USW Local 1010 for two years, works for ArcelorMittal.

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I don’t see a future if Trump is elected. With Hillary, there is a track record. We know she can produce.

“The change would be devastating if Trump were to win. He is so angry and his followers are so angry. He would turn back the hands of time. I am not sure the country is ready for that.”

“I have two children. My 10-year-old daughter asked me, ‘If Trump is going to send Mexican people back to Mexico, where is he going to send black people?’ Donald Trump is scaring children!

“Hillary has credibility for working with labor unions and looking out for young people. I love her ideas for investing in infrastructure. Because she will require American-made products, that will support American manufacturing and create American jobs. That shows she is looking out for the future.”

Sam D’Orazio, 46, of Bentleyville, Pa., has been a member of USW Local 3403, Unit 25, for a decade. He works for All-Clad, a cookware manufacturer.

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Donald Trump says people earn too much. Does he include himself in that or just me?

“Donald Trump does not speak for me. He does not treat people fairly and equitably. I accept diversity and Trump rejects that.

“Donald Trump’s promises are false and not fulfillable.  He is an illusionist.

“Hillary Clinton will make sure people have a decent chance to get ahead. She opposes right to work and has a loyalty to labor. She doesn’t turn her back on people.”

Leo W Gerard: Dishonest Don

Donald Trump likes to brag on the campaign trail that he’s the best at bribing politicians. He said, for example, “When you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.”  But then, when he got caught giving and getting exactly what the hell he wanted, he claimed that’s not what happened.

Not only that, Trump promises as president he would surround himself with the best advisers. The best! Just like he says he did as a businessman. And he claims he’s a great businessman. The greatest! Well, maybe he forgot about his four bankruptcies that left hundreds of small businessmen and craftsmen unpaid. And maybe he forgot about the fiasco surrounding his namesake foundation illegally giving a “donation” to an attorney general who then decided to drop a fraud investigation against him. The advisers in that case? Not exactly the best.

Much has been made lately about the Clinton Foundation. But Donny’s got one too. Unlike the Clinton Foundation, to which the Clintons gave $1 million last year, the Trump Foundation hasn’t seen a cent from Donny’s pocket since 2009.

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Image by DonkeyHotey on Flickr

Both foundations get lots of money from wealthy donors; the big difference is in how it’s spent. Among the Clinton Foundation focuses are providing access to HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB drugs in developing nations. Among the Trump Foundation programs are those providing gifts to Florida attorneys general considering whether to investigate allegations of fraud against Trump University.

Though the Trump Foundation gave this illegal “grant” back in 2013, the IRS was alerted to it only recently.

Like attorneys general in many states at that time, Florida’s Pam Bondi, a Republican, received numerous complaints that Trump University was a scam. Angry students who felt they got short shrift for their tens of thousands in “tuition” wanted Bondi to charge Trump and other university officials with fraud or at least help them get their money back.

Bondi’s spokesperson admitted to the Associated Press that Bondi personally asked Trump for a donation at the same time her office was deciding whether to join a lawsuit against Trump University proposed by New York’s Democratic attorney general.

Bondi got a $25,000 check. And isn’t it funny how quickly after that she decided against joining the lawsuit against Trump?

That left the individual Floridians who felt cheated to pursue reimbursement on their own. By contrast, in New York, the attorney general went ahead with the suit, representing students in his state that he believes were fleeced by Trump University in a bait-and-switch scheme.

When reporters questioned Trump about the $25,000 gift, he denied Bondi talked to him about a contribution. “I never spoke to her about it at all,” he claimed at first. But later, his spokeswoman admitted Bondi asked Trump for the money.

Trump didn’t take the $25,000 out of his own wallet. He took it from the foundation.

And see, here’s the problem. Non-profit foundations are prohibited by the IRS from making political contributions. And lying to the IRS about it is worse.

Here is how Allen Weisselberg, chief financial officer for the Trump Organization and treasurer for the Trump Foundation explained the bungling that led to the foundation paying a $2,500 fine to the IRS earlier this year.

First, Weisselberg claimed, a Trump clerk was asked to write a check for $25,000 to an organization called And Justice for All, which was Bondi’s political action committee.

Weisselberg swears that the clerk found a charity named And Justice for All in Utah, which helps people with disabilities, and wrote the check for And Justice for All intending it to go to a charity in Utah.

And then, he says, the check, somehow, he doesn’t know how, got sent to Bondi.

And that’s not all, folks!

Weisselberg blames the next blunder on Trump’s accounting firm. When the firm listed the foundation’s 2013 donations for the IRS, it didn’t list either And Justice for All from Utah or And Justice for All from Florida. Instead it listed an entirely different group, Justice for All from Kansas.

It was just a typo or something, Weisselberg claims.

So on the 2013 IRS form, first the Trump Foundation told the federal government that it had not spent money for political purposes, when, in fact, it had spent $25,000 for political purposes. Then it told the IRS it made a grant to a group it had not, in fact, given money to.

All this fumbling from what Donnie promises will be the very best advisers in the world. The greatest!

The IRS never would have discovered this on its own. Its staff has been decimated by Republican budget cutting. Republicans don’t want billionaires like Trump to get pinched for tax cheating. So they take care of that problem by eliminating the tax cops.

When they did, Donnie denied any of it was done on purpose. Now, don’t forget, Donnie’s the guy who keeps saying things like this on the campaign trail: “I’ve given to everybody because that is my job. I gotta give to them. Because when I want something, I get it. When I call, they kiss my ass.”

In Bondi’s case, though, Donnie denied she kissed his anything. He said they were just friends.

 “I’ve just known Pam Bondi for years,” he said. She was a great attorney general, so he sent her $25,000 when she asked for it while she was considering investigating his university and then he concealed the donation through his foundation and she dropped the investigation. Nothing to see here, folks!

Just like his tax returns. He keeps saying there’s nothing there. He claims he’s told Americans everything they need to know about his finances. But after this whole Bondi affair, it’s probably better to go with a new version of the old Reagan admonition when dealing with the Trump tax returns: distrust and verify by seeing the actual forms.

Leo W Gerard: Challenging The Stereotype Angry White Guy For Trump

Image by Lee Ruk CC Flikr

Image by Lee Ruk CC Flikr

As what the press has dubbed, “Hillary Clinton’s Blue Collar Bus Tour,” travels across Pennsylvania and Ohio, I want to tell you about two angry white men I met at the Democratic National Convention last week.

The press would have you believe that all of the angry white men are Trump supporters. This is the stereotype: They are high school educated, gun-totin’, flag-wavin’, bigots who love the bragging, swaggering bully in Trump.

But that’s an easy story. Those guys are easy to find. They fill Donald Trump’s stadiums. It’s true they’re out there. But what’s also true is that there’s a huge number of high school educated white men who don’t go to Trump rallies. They aren’t flag waving bigots. These are guys who only carry guns when they are hunting. They’re angry, all right. They’re angry at being associated with Trump.

Two of them were delegates to the Democratic National Convention last week. Both will be voting for Hillary Clinton and both will be urging their union brothers and sisters to do the same. They are Jim Savage, who is a member and past president of USW Local 10-1, where most members work at Philadelphia Energy Solutions, and Richard Ray, who is a retired member of the USW at Owens-Illinois Inc., having worked at plants in both North Carolina and Georgia.

For Ray, backing Trump would be antithetical to his life-long commitment to organized labor.

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Richard Ray

Ray joined the American Flint Glass Workers union when he got a job with the Owens-Illinois Glass Co. in Durham, N.C. when he was 20 years old.  Six months later, he was elected shop steward. He held elected union offices for the next 49 years, all the way up to president of the Georgia State AFL-CIO, always in the not-so-union-friendly South. He became a member of the USW when the glass workers and the steelworkers merged.

Ray devoted his life to helping the group, getting better wages, benefits and working conditions for his union brothers and sisters. The most vital value to union members, he explains, is “we.” The idea, he said, is that everybody helps improve life for everybody: “We are all in it together.”

“With Trump, though, it is always, me, me, me,” Ray said. What is most important to Donald Trump is Donald Trump.

It is true, Ray noted, that Donald Trump is very rich, that he has done very well for himself. For the “me.” But he has also gone bankrupt repeatedly. And when he did, he protected himself at the expense of working guys and small contractors. Trump paid pennies on the dollar to electricians and bricklayers and other skilled laborers. Lots of small contractors in New Jersey lost their family businesses because Trump didn’t pay what he owed them.

“He is the only one who came out smelling like a rose,” Ray told me. Trump wasn’t thinking of the other guy like a union brother or sister would. He was just thinking of Donald Trump.

The same is true with Trump’s signature products like suits and ties. Trump could have thought of the “we” and made a little bit less money for himself by manufacturing those products in America. But he didn’t. He makes them off shore with exploited foreign labor.

And right now Trump could be helping unemployed Americans, caring about the American “we,” but instead he is applying for 78 visas to bring in foreign nationals to work at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Ray told me that, by contrast, when he listens to Hillary Clinton, he hears the opposite. Even her slogan is “stronger together.”

He noted that when Hillary Clinton left an Ivy League law school, she could have taken a high-paid job with a law firm and just made money for herself, the way Donald Trump did when he left the Ivy League Wharton School. But instead, Hillary Clinton began working for children with disabilities. And she has been laboring to help people ever since, including securing health insurance for low income children when she was First Lady.

“I don’t think it has ever been about ‘me’ for Hillary Clinton,” Ray told me. “It has always been about we.”

Ray is a no stereotype southern working class white man voting for Trump. He will be working hard over the next four months to make sure his union brothers and sisters, his neighbors, friends and acquaintances all see that stereotype is as repulsive as he does.

Savage is no stereotype rust belt working class white man voting for Trump. Vice president of the Philadelphia AFL-CIO, Savage came to the convention as a Bernie Sanders delegate because his mission is economic justice. He said he switched his allegiance to Hillary Clinton easily because she has supported organized labor her entire political life.

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Jim Savage

Savage told me that he has fought throughout his life as a labor leader for economic justice and thought that racial justice would just naturally come along with it. But it has not.

“Economic justice doesn’t mean shit if it is only for a certain sector,” he told me last week. This is personal for Savage because he has both white grandchildren and black grandchildren. He wants them all to have the same opportunities. And he wants them to be treated equally in all areas of society.

He is deeply offended by racist comments Donald Trump has made. And he is deeply offended that people assume that because he is a white working class man that he is a Trump supporter.

“We need economic justice for all people, for people’s wives and daughters and neighbors,” Savage said. And that is why he is a white, working-class man supporting Hillary Clinton.

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