Midterm Results Are In, But 3 Big Manufacturing Questions Remain

Cathalijne Adams

Cathalijne Adams Researcher and Writer, Alliance for American Manufacturing

President Donald Trump, the professed master of “the art of the deal,” certainly has some bargaining ahead of him when the newly-elected Congress convenes in January. However, with broad bipartisan support from voters, manufacturing promises to be the perfect opportunity for a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and Republican-controlled Senate to find common ground and help the American worker.

We’ve outlined three major questions for the 116th Congress to consider as it tackles manufacturing issues.

1. What’s next for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)?

The greatest question when it comes to passage of the USMCA is whether the U.S. will replace tariffs on Canadian and Mexican steel with quotas – though Canadian President Justin Trudeau has affirmed that Canada’s agreement to the deal is not dependent on this. When the deal comes to Congress, labor standards implementation questions could delay passage.  

As for other trade fronts, U.S. strategy in addressing China trade cheating looks likely to stay on the course Trump set – an approach that the public is willing to see through as well.   

2. Will infrastructure get its due attention and action?

Infrastructure may finally -- FINALLY! -- come to the forefront of Congressional objectives.

Trump has long promised an infrastructure plan, but efforts to solidify these promises and bring them to fruition have left much to be desired. With House Democrats putting infrastructure investment at the top of their to-do lists, hope is mounting that the combined effort of the White House and Congress can build momentum into action.

Though Democrats’ plans for funding are likely to differ from what Trump envisions, long overdue infrastructure investment would be a win for the president, Congress, and, most importantly, the economy and workers. (Every $1 billion in transportation infrastructure investment would create over 21,000 jobs, according to a 2014 report.)

3. Will job training win new investment?

Around the country, as low unemployment rates shrink the job applicant pool, job training has become an ever-more critical issue for manufacturers.

The White House released a plan to advance American leadership in advanced manufacturing in October, outlining increased national investment in apprenticeship programs. Could Congress open the way for more funding?  

Newly-elected Democrats in the House, like Haley Stevens of Michigan, who has a history in manufacturing workforce development, could lead the way.  

Workers are depending on Congress and the president to collaborate and support American manufacturing. As polling shows, Americans want manufacturing to be a national priority. It's up to Congress and the president to make it happen.

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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