Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Steel Caucus hearing: Markets better but jobs still in jeopardy

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The ways and means of preserving and creating steelworker jobs was the focus of a hearing on Thursday held by the Congressional Steel Caucus, chaired by U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st.

“It goes without saying that the last year was a very difficult one for steelworkers and the domestic steel industry,” Visclosky said in a statement released following the hearing. “However, most indicators suggest that times are changing and, while I do not want to overstate the consequence of any action taken by this Caucus or by Congress, I believe that the Buy American provision we added to the Recovery Act, coupled with the investments in infrastructure made by the Recovery Act, have helped increase demand for American steel, increased production in American steel mills, and improved the employment picture for American steelworkers.”

Witnesses at the hearing focused their testimony on immediate and long-term concerns that impact steelworker jobs and the strength of the industry. “Although the state of the industry is somewhat improved over where it was a year ago, there remain serious challenges that pose threats to its recovery and revival,” the statement said.

“Witnesses urged greater action to enforce trade mechanisms and level the playing field with international competitors, especially with regard to Chinese dumping, currency manipulation, and illegal steel industry subsidies,” the statement said. “They also addressed the need to invest in America’s physical infrastructure with adherence to Buy America principles, and to seek climate change and energy policies that meet the nation’s environmental needs while guaranteeing the steel industry’s international competitiveness.”

Over the last year, the Steel Caucus has spearheaded initiatives in these issues and more. “With regard to infrastructure and manufacturing, they introduced the American Steel First Act, added the Buy America provision to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and have advocated for surface transportation reauthorization legislation,” the statement said. “On trade, they introduced the Currency Reform and Fair Trade Act, testified numerous times before the International Trade Commission, and petitioned the Administration and congressional leadership on trade concerns.”

In “energy and climate change policy, members of the Steel Caucus worked to include allowances and border adjustment provisions in the House-passed climate change legislation that help defend the industry’s international competitiveness,” the statement added. “Today, the Steel Caucus pledged to redouble these efforts to pursue the preservation and creation of steelworker jobs and ensure the industry’s sustained recovery and vitality.”

“There is certainly more work to be done, and I remain seriously concerned about ongoing issues such as international competitiveness, particularly with an eye toward China, and the impact climate change policy would have on the American steel industry,” Visclosky said. “I believe that ensuring the vitality of the American steel industry is critical to maintaining our manufacturing base and the Caucus will remain focused on that goal.”

Excerpts from Witness Testimony

•Tim Conway, international vice-president of the United Steelworkers: “Unless and until we change course dramatically to adopt an aggressive manufacturing policy with strong domestic content rules as the norm for all infrastructure projects, the decimation of manufacturing will continue and we will not capture the green manufacturing necessary for our nation to compete successfully in the 21st century or to provide the good green jobs of the future for working Americans. We must also get tough on trade to ensure that we do not continue to hemorrhage jobs and capacity due to unfair trade practices like currency manipulation.”

•John Surma, chair and CEO of U.S. Steel Corporation: “I will conclude my thoughts on energy policy by underscoring the need for Congress to devise a coherent energy message that sends consistent signals on carbon emissions without jeopardizing industrial competitiveness, avoids near term action that creates winners and losers based on industry or geography, and provides adequate resources to invest in technology solutions for the long haul.”

•Jim Wainscott, chair, president, and CEO of AK Steel Corporation: “Today, I am pleased to report that business conditions are somewhat improved. A number of our member companies have recalled laid-off employees, re-lit blast furnaces and resumed production at idled plants.”


Posted 3/26/2010




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