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NY Times: Steelworkers Facing Layoffs While Waiting for Trump Policies

Image: NY Times: Steelworkers Facing Layoffs While Waiting for Trump Policies
(AP)

By    |   Friday, 22 December 2017 10:52 AM

President Donald Trump's election-year pledge to revive the steel industry through plans that would protect the nation's mills from unfair imports have not yet been put into policy, and because of the delay, foreign steel makers have flooded the U.S. markets, leaving factory workers facing layoffs as the New Year rings in.

According to the American Iron and Steel Institute statistics on shipments, steel imports went up by 19.4 percent in the first 10 months of 2017 than during the same period the year before, The New York Times is reporting. 

The U.S. steel industry, already endangered by cheap Chinese steel, have been further hurt, and at least one steel owner is responding with planned deep cuts that could affect even those workers with years of seniority.

ArcelorMittal, owner of the Conshohocken plate production facility on the outskirts of Philadelphia, in September announced its plan to lay off 150 of the plant's 207 workers next year, beginning with the most junior workers.

Trump had promised to build roads and bridges and strengthen the steel industry through "buy American" rules, but the policies to make that happen haven't been approved.

In August, American steel industry executives appealed directly to Trump for immediate import restrictions in a letter seen by Reuters, as U.S. Commerce Department national security probe languishes and steel imports surge back to 2015 levels.

Senior executives from 25 U.S. steel and steel-related companies sent the letter to Trump, saying the industry was suffering the consequences of government inaction that could change with his "bold leadership" and "America First" vision.

"The need for action is urgent. Since the 232 investigation was announced in April, imports have continued to surge," the executives said in the letter.

ArcelorMittal has blamed the layoffs at the Conshohocken plant on the increased imports, along with low demand for steel used in military equipment and bridges.

Commerce Spokesman James Rockas said the Trump administration is "aware of the plight of American steel workers and will continue working to halt unfair trade practices that harm our economy and kill American jobs."

However, at the Conshohocken plant, work has gone from around-the-clock to a mill that processes steel just 40 hours a week, in eight-hour periods five days a week. The plant's specialty is military-grade steel.

Trump did, in his first months in office, issue several executive actions, including one to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with others including investigations into imports or renegotiating trace pacts.

The president also ordered probes into steel and aluminum imports, and in May, the Commerce Secretary said he expected the investigation to conclude in June.

"Wait till you see what I'm going to do for steel and your steel companies," Trump told a crowd in Cincinnati in June, also promising he'd stop the dumping of cheap products into the United States. However, the announcement did not come.

Ross, a former ArcelorMittal board member, wanted to seek tariffs against foreign steel, but industry leaders said tariffs would increase costs and eventually sacrifice American jobs.

"I think the White House is immobilized, because they have such a cacophony of voices," said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who says he is an ally of the president on trade. "This administration doesn't seem to know what it thinks about trade."

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department's report is to be on the president's desk by Jan. 15, and he has up to 90 days to decide what to do on it. The White House says it will turn to trade measures, including on steel, once tax reform legislation is signed into law.

Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey Jr., though, accused the Trump administration of waiting too long, and said that could become an issue in the 2018 midterm elections.

The administration's commitment to workers would probably be an issue in the 2018 midterm elections. "They've sat on this for far too long," he said.

The United Steelworkers defends the Trump administration's trade agenda against criticisms lodged by several business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, notes The Times.

However, Scott Paul, the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, which represents steelworkers, said he feels a "profound sense of frustration that the president has been using steelworkers as political props."

"The president's own words and lack of action have actually put the industry in a worse position than if he had done nothing at all," he said.

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President Donald Trump's election-year pledge to revive the steel industry through plans that would protect the nation's mills from unfair imports have not yet been put into policy, and because of the delay, foreign steel makers have flooded the U.S. markets...
steelworkers, layoffs, trump, policies, stall
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2017-52-22
Friday, 22 December 2017 10:52 AM
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