Headed to D.C., Steelworkers Want Trump to Keep His Promise — & Protect America’s National Security

Jeffrey Bonoir Researcher, Alliance for American Manufacturing

When steelworker Calvin Croftcheck came to Washington in June, it looked like the Trump administration was prepping to do something about unfair steel and aluminum imports.

Croftcheck and several of his colleagues were in town for Commerce Department hearings on ongoing national security investigations into the imports, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said he expected everything would be wrapped up by the end of the month.

It is now September, and the Trump administration still hasn’t unveiled the findings of the Section 232 investigations. And for steelworkers like Croftcheck, the frustration is mounting.

“We’re pretty much at a make or break point now,” Croftcheck said. “If we don’t get some relief pretty quickly, and if it’s not substantial relief, that’s not going to help us any.”

Croftcheck is headed back to Washington this week to join dozens of his fellow steelworkers to meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill and push for action on imports.

Croftcheck, who has 40 years of experience in the steel industry, is currently the chief safety inspector for U.S. Steel, overseeing 18,000 steelworkers at 12 locations throughout the country. He’s based in the Mon Valley of Southwestern Pennsylvania, where Trump once infamously told an audience: “It will be American steel that sends our skyscrapers soaring, soaring into the sky, beautiful sight, more beautiful with American steel. We are going to put American steel and aluminum back into the backbone of country.”

Workers there haven’t forgotten Trump’s pledge, Croftcheck said.

“He’s said a lot of things,” Croftcheck said. “He was here in Pittsburgh on a campaign stop, and he said he was going to bring back steel, and he said he was going to bring back coal, and he was going to bring back (legendary Penn St. football coach) Joe Paterno, and the crowd went wild. But, what, Joe Paterno’s been dead for five years.”

Since the investigations were announced in the spring, importers have dumped huge amounts of steel and aluminum into the U.S. market to get ahead of any potential action. In the first seven months of 2017, steel imports alone are up more than 21 percent.

“By doing the grandstanding like this and not following through, he actually hurt us worse than if he would have done nothing,” Croftcheck said.

“It doesn’t help any of us in the Mon Valley,” Croftcheck added. “I mean, this guy has made promises he was going to take care of Pittsburgh, not Paris. The steelworkers here are desperately holding out hope. But the president is going to come up short with these guys unless he does something.”

Tom Duffy, a 49-year-old U.S. Steel safety inspector at the facilities in the Mon Valley and the Fairless Hills mill near Philadelphia, also is headed back to Washington this week. And Duffy, a Gulf War veteran, echoed Croftcheck’s remarks.

“People are frustrated right now,” Duffy said. “There is not enough being done for the steel industry. We are looking to see this big light of hope that Trump said was going to save the steel industry but we’re just not seeing action.

“He’s the president and he made a lot of promises and one of those big promises was that he was going to bring steel back. And we really haven’t seen anything that has been done to help us. Promises are promises, but actions kind of say everything. If we start to see something happen, then we can say, ‘Well, yeah, maybe there is more potential for progress with the steel industry.’ But right now, it’s a lot of smoke and mirrors.

“Where are you at Mr. President? Where are you at? What are you doing for the steel industry? He thinks fixing taxes is more important than taking care of the steel industry,” Duffy added. “We need to get those tax cuts for the rich because I guess they all are going to go hungry.”

Donald Jackson is a third-generation steelworker who has worked for the past five years at the Edgar Thomson Works Blast Furnace facility on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. After hearing Trump’s speech and attending the Section 232 hearings in June, he was confident there would be an American steelmaking resurgence.

“Out of this president, I went from being optimistic that this mill that I work at, U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson plant, would be busier than we’ve ever been since its heyday to basically thinking what just happened,” Jackson said. “I am thinking not only where is the big action from the big talker, but where’s the big talk? The big talk has gone away. It’s almost like the president’s thought process is, well if I stop talking about it, they’ll forget about it and I’m off the hook. There’s 13,000 of us at U.S. Steel that are not going to forget about it. And that’s just U.S. Steel. That doesn’t include ArcelorMittal and the rest of them.

“I didn’t have a very big issue with him becoming president. I pride myself on the way I was raised. Being open minded,” Jackson added. “So, that’s why I said give President Trump a chance. A chance that he’s entitled to. But to me and my union brothers and sisters, he’s blowing that chance.”


Reposted from AAM

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Alliance for American Manufacturing

Union Matters

Freight can’t wait

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

A freight train hauling lumber and nylon manufacturing chemicals derailed, caught fire and caused a 108-year-old bridge to collapse in Tempe, Ariz., this week, in the second accident on the same bridge within a month.

The bridge was damaged after the first incident, according to Union Pacific railroad that owns the rail bridge, and re-opened two days later. 

The official cause of the derailments is still under investigation, but it remains clear that the failure to modernize and maintain America’s railroad infrastructure is dangerous. 

In 2019, 499 trains that derailed were found to have defective or broken track, roadbed or structures, according to the Federal Railroad Administration’s database of safety analysis.

While railroad workers’ unions have called for increased safety improvements, rail companies have also used technology and automation as an excuse to downsize their work forces.

For example, rail companies have implemented a cost-saving measure known as Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR), which has resulted in mass layoffs and shoddy safety protocols. 

Though privately-owned railroads have spent significantly to upgrade large, Class I trains, regional Class II trains and local, short-line Class III trains that carry important goods for farmers and businesses still rely on state and local funds for improvements. 

But cash-strapped states struggle to adequately inspect new technologies and fund safety improvements, and repairing or replacing the aging track and rail bridges will require significant public investment.

A true infrastructure commitment will not only strengthen the country’s railroad networks and increase U.S. global economic competitiveness. It will also create millions of family-sustaining jobs needed to inspect, repair and manufacture new parts for mass transit systems, all while helping to prevent future disasters.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work