The Steel Industry Isn’t Rebounding Quite Yet, But Hopefully the Worst is Behind Us

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

Steel executives, union leaders and manufacturing experts told Members of Congress on Wednesday that America's steel industry remains at risk because of unfair foreign imports, noting that a further decrease in America's steel producing capabilities threatens our national security. 

The Congressional Steel Caucus hosts a briefing each year to examine the state of the steel industry. After several years of dire warnings about the devastation occurring in steel communities because of imports from China, this time around witnesses told the Members that trade enforcement has helped stabilize the sector.  

But they emphasized that the steel imports crisis is far from over. 

"Without continued action, America's steel sector will remain in peril," testified Tom Conway, the international vice president of the United Steelworkers. "Capacity utilization at U.S. mills is increasing, but it is gaining slowly... Now is not the time to do a 'victory lap' but, rather, to accelerate the actions we can take."

More than 13,500 U.S. steelworkers have faced layoffs because of the steel imports crisis, which is largely driven by China's massive industrial overcapacity. In response, the United States issued several sets of anti-dumping and countervailing duties on some unfair Chinese steel imports, which alleviated some of the pain.

About 200 workers in Granite City, Ill., and others on the Iron Range in Minnesota have been called back to work. But thousands of steelworkers remain laid off — and this past month, about 600 of them in Lorain, Ohio were notified that the temporary closure of tubular operations at the city's U.S. Steel plant would become permanent.  

"Other facilities across the country over the last several years have also announced layoffs," Conway said. "This is not 'rebounding,' but hopefully, a bottoming out." 

Members of Congress have a role to play to help these steelworkers. Conway and the other witnesses — including Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul — pushed for specific policies such as infrastructure investment, trade enforcement and efforts to strengthen our defense industrial base to safeguard our national security.   

Any infrastructure package, they noted, should include strong Buy American preferences that ensure tax dollars are reinvested into local communities and create jobs.  

Those preferences should also follow the "melted and poured" standard, which states that all steel manufacturing processes take place in the United States to qualify for Buy America. This is important because Buy America opponents — like the Russian steel company NLMK —are lobbying to weaken Buy America by allowing imported foreign steel to qualify, so long as it is finished in the United States. 

But strengthening the steel industry isn't just about jobs, the witnesses said — it's also about keeping America safe. 

Case-in-point: Right now, AK Steel is the only steelmaker that manufactures electrical steel in the United States, said Roger Newport, the company's chief executive officer.  

This type of steel is needed for transmission and distribution transformers for energy systems.  A surge of unfairly traded steel imports led to a decrease in American-made electrical steel — and that's putting America at risk, Newport said. 

"If large power transformers are destroyed by a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or simply old age, critical parts of the U.S. electric grid could be down in a region for an extended period of time, causing a significant impact on national security and the U.S. economy," Newport testified. "If domestic electrical steel production and transformer protection is not maintained in the U.S., the future could entail a situation where the U.S. is 100 percent reliant on foreign producers, like China, to supply these critical materials." 

Our military also depends on American-made steel for things like armored vehicles and aircraft. The U.S. Navy, for example, needs steel for its ships, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments

"The military shipbuilding industry exemplifies the need for a robust steel industry," he testified. "Ships use hardened steel for armor, specialized alloys for sensor and weapons housings, and high-carbon forged steel for machinery components that all require different production processes." 

Tracy Porter, executive vice president of Commercial Metals and the chair of the Steel Manufacturers Association, noted that despite the challenges, domestic steelmakers remain optimistic about the future of the industry. Commercial Metals built a new micro mill in Durant, Okla., that will be up-and-running later this year, he said. 

"To support investments of this magnitude, we must enforce our trade laws and address the harm caused by the unfair trade behavior of some foreign nations," he added. "We are appreciative of the trade law updates that were enacted during the 115th Congress... we must now make sure that our government agencies fully utilize the tools and resources that Congress has given them." 

***

This was reposted from AAM.

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Alliance for American Manufacturing

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work