Take Action! Tell Congress to Support the Transit Infrastructure Vehicle Security Act

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

We've written fairly extensively about the threat that Chinese state-owned companies like the China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) and Build Your Dreams (BYD) pose to both good-paying jobs and our national security. AAM President Scott Paul even testified about it at a Congressional hearing a few weeks back.

Now you have a chance to weigh in!

In case you need to catch up, here's the deal. CRRC and BYD are owned and controlled by the Chinese government, which is seeking to systematically drive competitors out of the market and create a monopoly in both the rail (CRRC) and bus (BYD) production markets. CRRC has severely underbid competitors for contracts to build railcars in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, while BYD has nabbed contracts in Los Angeles and Albuquerque. 

China's goal isn't to make money, as companies that operate in a free and open market would. Rather, it wants to completely take over the entire production of America's rail and bus systems as part of its "Made in China 2025" plan. This, of course, creates a number of national security risks — from potential spying on passengers to hacking into transit systems — as well as big economic worries, as there are currently 90,000 good-paying jobs in the U.S. that depend on transit production.

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[Insert Your Infrastructure Week Joke Here]

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

Three weeks ago, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) traveled to the White House to talk infrastructure with President Trump. It went surprisingly well, and the trio met again on Wednesday to hash out ways to fund a $2 trillion bipartisan plan. Yay!

So... Trump angrily stormed out of the meeting on Wednesday, saying he wouldn't work with Democrats until they “get these phony investigations over with.”

And Pelosi responded that she’s now “praying” for him.  

LOL INFRASTRUCTURE WEEK AMIRITE?!?

Here’s how it went down:

 

Welp.

Trump is clearly playing politics, hitting back at Democrats for their ongoing investigations into him and his administration (and growing momentum to impeach him).

But there might be another reason why Trump decided to blow up the infrastructure meeting — he doesn’t want to have an internal fight with his own party. After all, Congressional Republicans have balked at the $2 trillion price tag of the plan, and Trump’s own chief of staff told people that it would be difficult to pass “any infrastructure bill in this environment, let alone a $2 trillion one.”

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AAM is Traveling to America’s Steel Towns to See the Real-Life Impacts of the Section 232 Tariffs

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

It’s been just over a year since the Trump administration instituted “Section 232” trade action to address surging steel imports. President Trump’s decision to institute steel tariffs has proven to be one of the more controversial decisions of his time in office — which is rather interesting, considering this is a president who seems to thrive on controversy — but nonetheless people seem to have a lot of very important thoughts about it.

But what is often missing from the typical Acela Corridor rhetoric is actual on-the-ground information about what is happening in the steel communities who saw the direct effects of the trade action. With that in mind, we decided to visit some of these places and find out what is happening for ourselves.

Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul recently traveled to Coatesville, Pa., and Granite City, Ill., two steel towns that were devastated by the steel imports crisis.

Coatesville is home to the oldest continuously operating steel mill in the country — and is a key supplier of the special steel used by the military and to build critical infrastructure — but it came close to shutting down until the steel tariffs helped stabilize the industry. The steel mill in Granite City did shut down in 2015, but the trade action led to the restart of the mill’s two blast furnaces in 2018.

We’re sharing some of the findings from the two trips in a new special section on our website. You can also take a deeper dive on The Manufacturing Report podcast, which is available on iTunes and over on Soundcloud — here’s the episode on Coatesville, and here is Scott’s report from Granite City.

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President Trump Says Lordstown is Saved! But… Is It?

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

President Trump took a break from his normal Twitter routine on Wednesday afternoon to break a piece of honest-to-goodness news:

Trump is referring to the General Motors Lordstown plant in Ohio, which is one of five North American plants that General Motors announced in November would be shut down, eliminating thousands of jobs.

The Lordstown plant officially closed in March, leading to 1,400 layoffs. Although some of the Lordstown workers have landed at other GM plants, others are still looking for work.

The Lordstown closure was devastating for Ohio’s Mahoning Valley, which had depended on the factory as a pillar of its economy since it opened in 1966. For his part, Trump took the news of the Lordstown closure pretty personally. After all, he visited nearby Youngstown during the 2016 campaign and famously declared, “Those jobs have left Ohio — they’re all coming back. Don’t move, don’t sell your house.”

When Trump tweeted out Wednesday afternoon that GM had sold the Lordstown factory — and to Workhorse, a company that wants to use it to make electric trucks! — it seemed like great news.

But once you start looking at the details, it’s not so clear any of this is going to pan out.

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U.S. Steel Is Investing $1 Billion to Transform Mon Valley Works Near Pittsburgh

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

U.S. Steel was the world’s first billion dollar corporation — and now the company is investing more than $1 billion to transform its hometown steelmaking complex into what CEO Dave Burritt says will be “the most innovative steel mill in the United States of America.”

Located just outside Pittsburgh, Mon Valley Works is an integrated operation of several different facilities, and U.S. Steel is aiming to increase its efficiency while also significantly reducing its emissions. The upgrades will allow Mon Valley Works to churn out the type of high-strength, lightweight-yet-flexible steel sought after by the auto, appliance and construction industries.

A new cogeneration facility will be built at the Clairton Plant in Clairton, Pa., which will allow the company to convert a portion of coke oven gas into electricity to power operations throughout the entire Mon Valley Works. At the Edgar Thomson Plant in nearby Braddock, the company will build a new sustainable endless casting and rolling facility, the first of its kind in the United States and one of only a handful in the world.

The 3,000 current employees at Mon Valley Works will have the chance to receive training to operate the upgraded facility, and U.S. Steel plans to “partner with educators in our community” to train the next generation of steelworkers for advanced manufacturing jobs. Meanwhile, the company expects to see a big decrease in its carbon footprint because of the improvements, including a 60 percent drop in particulate matter, a 50 percent decrease of sulfur dioxide and an 80 percent drop of nitrogen oxides.

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Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders Uses Lordstown to Go After President Trump

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

We’ve spent a good deal of time on the blog the past several weeks talking about Lordstown, the infamous General Motors plant that shut down in March, leading to 1,400 layoffs.

Now it looks like Lordstown is becoming an issue in the 2020 presidential campaign.

Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders — who is considered one of the party’s frontrunners for the nomination, at least as much as there can be a frontrunner at this point — visited Lordstownlast week. And over the weekend, the Vermont senator dropped a new digital campaign ad about the Lordstown closure in which he takes direct aim at President Trump.

The Sanders ad, titled “Lordstown Tough,” features Chuckie Denison, a third-generation GM worker who worked at Lordstown and other GM facilities. Denison is backing Sanders in the race — a given, since he’s in an ad for the guy — but Denison spends a good chunk of the ad talking about Trump.

“Trump lied to Ohio. … He came to this area and told people, ‘Do not sell your homes, I’m bringing the jobs back.’ And weeks after that, is when they announced the plant closing,” Denison says.*

Denison continues: “He came here and lied to these people. I didn’t buy it, but many people did because they were hanging on to hope. They were hoping that he would do something, but he did the opposite.”

The ad also features clips of Sanders, who calls out Trump for granting GM federal contracts despite the fact that the company is shipping production overseas.

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Trump’s Trade Deal with China Might Not Tackle Industrial Subsidies

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

We’ve been closely monitoring trade talks between the United States and China, and we’ve gone on record to note that there are a couple of ways things could go. The two countries will either reach a historic deal that requires China to play by the rules of global competition — or the agreement will be a dud, making a few superficial changes but mostly maintaining the status quo.

Well, score one for the status quo.

Reuters reports that “U.S. negotiators have tempered demands that China curb industrial subsidies as a condition for a trade deal after strong resistance from Beijing.”

Instead, negotiators are focusing on issues they see as more achievable, including ending forced technology transfers, strengthening protection of intellectual property and opening up China’s markets.

Look, addressing technology transfers and intellectual property is vital, and U.S. negotiators are right to focus on them. Ditto for further opening up China’s market.

But by abandoning the issue of industrial subsidies in these talks, the United States is giving a green light to China to continue to cheat the global trading system and put countries and companies that play by the rules at a disadvantage.

Case in point: Steel.

President Trump put a 25% tariff on steel imports in April 2018 in response to surging foreign imports. Now, you’ve probably heard about those "Section 232" tariffs — they’ve garnered a lot of criticism from the Acela Corridor set — but what is often missing from the conversation is that despite Trump’s bluster, there was a very legitimate reason why he issued those tariffs.

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Members of Congress Want Natural Gas Exported to China to Travel on U.S. Ships

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin arrived in China on Thursday for continued trade talks.

There’s a lot the two nations are expected to discuss this time around – intellectual property, state-owned enterprises, forced technology transfers – and while it remains unclear whether any meaningful progress will be made, it does appear the two nations are inching toward a deal.

Meanwhile, two lawmakers are turning their attention to an issue that hasn’t been getting a lot of press, but could have big implications for U.S. job growth and competitiveness when a deal is finally reached.

Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) wrote to Lighthizer, Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross this week asking the three to ensure that U.S.-flagged and crewed vessels “play a key role” in the transportation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to China.

There’s growing speculation that China will agree to purchase $18 billion worth of natural gas from the United States as part of the eventual U.S.-China trade agreement. While that is good news for the domestic natural gas industry, Garamendi and Wicker also point out that unless U.S. officials step in, those LNG exports will “almost certainly be on foreign-flag vessels operated by foreign crews.”

The U.S.-flag international fleet has declined by nearly 60 percent since 1991 to just 80 vessels. Considering the fleet’s importance to U.S. national and economic security, this certainly does seem like something that needs to be addressed.

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Things are Better for the Steel Industry Thanks to Recent Trade Action — But China Still Looms

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

It’s been about a year since the Trump administration implemented its “Section 232” trade action, and steel industry officials told Congress on Wednesday they are seeing the positive effects — investments in facilities across the country, thousands of new jobs, raising wages, and even small business growth in local communities.

But nobody is breaking out the champagne quite yet.

“Right now, the steel industry is in what I would call recovery. Times are better than they’ve been in a long time,” said Leo Gerard, international president of the United Steelworkers. “But let me just say this: Chinese overcapacity still exists… We can’t sit idly by and think that just because things appear to be good they’re going to be good forever. We’ve got to make the recognition that the cheaters still exist.”

The labor leader’s message was echoed by steel executives who also testified at the annual Congressional Steel Caucus hearing. Officials from steel companies and associations noted that tariffs placed on steel imports have allowed the industry to finally begin to stabilize after facing an onslaught of unfairly traded imports, mainly from China.

The 232 tariffs have led to a decrease in imports and an uptick in domestic production. More than 12,000 new jobs have been announced across the steel and aluminum industries since the 232 investigation launched; $18.2 billion in investments also have been announced. Recent bargaining agreements between the Steelworkers union and several companies have led to raises and even bonuses for tens of thousands of workers.

U.S. Steel, for example, is investing at in several facilities across the country. In Granite City, Ill., the company restarted two blast furnaces that had sat idle since 2015, creating 800 jobs. In Lone Star, Texas, 140 new workers will soon be making products at a tubular mill that shut down in 2016. In Fairfield, Ala., the company is resuming construction of an electric arc furnace, a project placed on hold in 2015. About 600 workers will help build it, and 150 new employees will run it.

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Trump Budget Would Slash Funding for Manufacturing Extension Partnerships

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

It seems like a thousand news cycles ago now, but President Trump unveiled his proposed 2020 budget on Monday.

The $4.75 trillion budget includes major cuts to federal spending for domestic programs while increasing funding for defense and border security. Lots of people are fired up about it, but it’s important to keep in mind that Congress has the ultimate say over the budget — and lawmakers have rejected many of Trump’s budget requests in the past.

Still, the budget does offer a glimpse into the Trump administration’s priorities for the upcoming year, and as such we spent some time digging through the document for items that may impact manufacturing. One thing in particular caught our eye: Trump’s proposal to severely cut — and eventually phase out — federal funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program.

This is a terrible idea. Just terrible.

MEP runs a network of centers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico designed to help small and medium-sized manufacturers improve their businesses, including through things like product development, worker training programs, and business continuity planning.

MEP punches above its weight when it comes to achieving results. The $128 million invested in MEP during fiscal year 2017 generated almost $1.9 billion in returns to the federal treasury, according to a study by the Upjohn Institute.

Meanwhile, MEP has helped create 985,117 jobs since its founding in 1988. That’s nearly a million jobs!

That’s not all, either. When MEP celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, it noted it has worked with 94,033 manufacturers, helping generate $111.3 billion in sales and $18.8 billion in cost savings for its clients.

That is why it strikes us as foolhardy for the Trump administration to try to gut the program. Trump proposes cutting current funding levels by $125 million for fiscal 2019 — which would leave just $5 million left for the program. Eventually, the federal government would cut off all funding, according to the proposal.

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