USW Chief Rips Trump on Use of Imported Steel
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – United Steelworker International President Leo Gerard on Tuesday blasted the Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump, in the wake of a Newsweek article that found the wealthy businessman used Chinese steel and aluminum in some of his latest development projects.
“We’re going to take the Newsweek story, turn it into a handbill, and we’re going to handbill every one of our plants in America, whether they’re in Arizona or the Mahoning Valley,” Gerard told reporters during a conference call.
Labor and management in the Mahoning Valley have long been vocal opponents of international trade deals they say have stripped jobs from the manufacturing sector and sent them to Mexico and China. Moreover, steelmakers in the region have appealed to Congress and a succession of presidential administrations over the last three decades to enforce trade policies designed to discourage the import of cheaply priced foreign steel and metals by placing penalties on metals illegally dumped in this country.
Trump has gained traction in this region because of his rhetoric on trade, vowing to put in place punitive measures on countries that violate U.S. trade law and instead build structures with American steel and put Americans back to work.
Trump may talk tough, Gerard said, but his track record as a businessman shows that he used lower priced foreign steel on construction projects for his own benefit.
“We want the country to know that this guy is nothing but a fraud,” Gerard stated. “He has the gall yesterday and the audacity to come to Pennsylvania and say he’s going to build skyscrapers with American steel while at the very same time he’s got Chinese steel coming through the back door.”
On Monday, Newsweek published an investigative article that found Trump chose to purchase and use aluminum and steel from Chinese manufacturers in at least two of his last three construction projects rather than turn to producers in states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania.
According to Newsweek, Trump bought steel and aluminum through holding companies that import their metals from Chinese manufacturers. Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, the magazine reported, used aluminum sourced from a company whose parent, Permastellisa North America Corp., imports steel, aluminum and other metals from its two affiliate companies in China.
“He’s been doing this with aluminum. He’s been doing this with steel. And we’re going to encourage further investigation to see if he’s been doing this with glass and other products,” Gerard said. “It’s fundamental dishonesty as he’s trying to sneak that into the country by a number of shell companies.”
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president, cited the Newsweek story yesterday during a campaign stop in Akron. “Instead of buying his steel and aluminum from American plants here in Ohio and Pennsylvania, instead of supporting American workers and American jobs, he once again stiffed us,” she said.
As of this posting, Trump’s Ohio campaign had not responded to an email seeking a response.
Gerard said that the Steel Workers’ attorneys would look into whether the candidate circumvented and violated U.S. trade law, leaving open the possibility of the union filing a trade case against Trump. And, since the Trump companies were private, he noted, there was no obligation to shareholders, only his own business interests.
“If it’s violating trade laws, we’re going to try to get the maximum sanctions that we can,” Gerard said.
Trump’s actions are a part of a pattern that shows “an utter disregard” for American workers, Gerard said, from his clothing line to his taxes. “Every single thing is done based on what is best for Donald Trump,” Gerard said, “and the hell with the rest of America.”
He reminded reporters that about 13,000 steelworkers are on layoff, another 6,000 aluminum workers on layoff. The Chinese, meanwhile, operate more than 100 aluminum-smelting companies and “are dumping their stuff into our markets.”
The USW president said that his union would mobilize and travel through the battleground industrial states to raise awareness of Trump’s actions. “We intend to make this a very big issue,” he said.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.