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The Black Working Class Was Hit Especially Hard by Factory Job Loss and Industrial Flight

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

If you’ve visited the Internet sometime over the past two-and-a-half years, you almost certainly have come across a diner story.

You know the one. A reporter from a big fancy news outlet with its headquarters in New York City or D.C. flies out to a working-class town in Ohio or Michigan or Pennsylvania or maybe even Wisconsin and stops at the local diner — or maybe a sports bar. There, the reporter talks to people over pancakes and coffee or chicken wings and beer about their political opinions and why they think Donald Trump got elected president, then files a story and immediately flies home.

There were so many of these stories in recent years — full disclosure: we shared them and even are featured in some — that predictably there was pushback. One of the criticisms is that these pieces aim to figure out the white working-class voter but leave out the voices of people of color who also live in these places.

While some folks have taken pains to capture diverse voices — Chris Arnade comes to mind — there are examples where this criticism is valid. Slate was among the outlets that critiqued The New York Times for visiting Youngstown, Ohio, but failing to capture the voices of the majority-minority city, which is 43 percent black.

And Slate went a step further, sending reporter Henry Grabar to Buckeye State to get the perspective of “the people in Youngstown, Ohio that the national media usually ignores.” Grabar’s report highlights the unique struggles that the black community in Youngstown has faced over the past several decades, writing that whatever “went wrong for the white working class here went even worse for their black counterparts.”

It’s not just Youngstown. Back in 2016, Gerald D. Taylor — himself a Youngstown native! — highlighted some of these issues in the report Unmade in America: Industrial Flight and the Decline of Black Communities. As Taylor notes, manufacturing in the mid-20th century allowed many black families the opportunity to begin to build a nest egg, own their own homes and move into the middle class.

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Steelmaker ArcelorMittal Unveils Its First Climate Action Report

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

Earlier this month was World Environment Day, a global United Nations event defined as the “’people’s day’ for doing something to take care of the Earth.”

There’s a host nation each year for the event — this year it’s China, LOL — but also Dave Matthews is a celebrity ambassador, so it’s pretty legit.

In any case, the Alliance for American Manufacturing has long held that American companies and workers have a role to play in reducing carbon emissions and improving the environment. Many already are leading the way, from individual companies like Aardvark Straws, which is helping Americans ditch harmful plastic straws, to the 1,200 U.S. factories and 288,000 American workers who are building clean, fuel-efficient vehicles.

Then there’s steel company ArcelorMittal, which recently unveiled its Climate Action Report, the company’s game plan for cutting its global emissions in line with targets adopted by world leaders in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

ArcelorMittal is the world’s largest producer of steel, and it has an extensive presence in the United States, employing more than 18,000 people at 27 operations in 14 states and Washington, D.C. As such, it’s a leader for the entire steel industry, which accounts for 7 percentof total global emissions worldwide (although it’s worth pointing out that China — which has a steel overcapacity problem to begin with — is driving quite a lot of those emissions).  

But I digress.

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Foxconn Is Looking to Move iPhone Production Out of China… Maybe to Wisconsin?

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

Two big manufacturing stories we’ve been following closely over the past few months are converging.

First, there’s the U.S.-China trade negotiations, which are… so not happening right now. President Trump, emboldened from his recent tariff spat with Mexico, is playing hardball with China, and the Chinese are not backing down, either.

That means that businesses are looking at long-term strategies on how best to survive a trade war between the two nations before things really get out of hand.

One of those companies is Foxconn, which makes a ton of tech but is perhaps best known for manufacturing iPhones in China. Most of the factories that produce the iPhone and its various parts are in China, and Foxconn employs 350,000 people to make them at a massive factory complex in Zhengzhou called “iPhone City.”

Working conditions there are just great and people are very happy.

But I digress. If Trump does indeed follow through on his current plan to place a 25 percent tariff on Chinese imports, the iPhone and other Apple gadgets would take a hit. As The Verge noted, one-third of Apple’s iPhone revenue comes from products imported to the United States from China, so it’s a big deal for the California-based company’s bottom line.

Apple would have to decide whether to pass the cost increase onto consumers, which could raise the price of the already expensive iPhone by up to 16 percent, according to Bloomberg. Demand for the iPhone could then decrease by up to 40 percent. Either way, Apple is in a bad place.

So Foxconn — which relies on Apple for about half of its revenue — is now looking at ways to make the iPhone outside of China and avoid the tariffs. Foxconn executives already have made a big deal about how it is “totally capable of dealing with Apple’s needs to move production lines,” possibly to plants in Brazil, Mexico, Vietnam or... Wisconsin? 

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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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Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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A Friendly Reminder

A Friendly Reminder