On Jan. 8, it joined Titan International in filing petitions against OTR tire importers from China, India and Sri Lanka, and on Jan. 29 — the day the ITC held a preliminary hearing on the OTR tire petitions — the union filed antidumping and countervailing duty petitions against Chinese truck and bus tire imports.
“All of these areas are coming together at the same time,” Mr. Houseman said. “The import surge has a lot to do with capacity issues. As China's capacity increases, they have to find a country to put those tires.
“Chinese manufacturers receive subsidies our manufacturers don't receive. Six thousand workers in truck and bus tires alone have seen significant layoffs.”
Tire manufacturing plants are only one of many sectors the USW organizes. Steel, of course, has been the union's traditional focus, but it organizes more than a dozen industries including atomic, chemical, energy, mining, oil, paper and even education and health care.
Mr. Houseman himself worked at a USW-organized paper mill in Missoula, Mont., before joining the USW staff.
The first job of the union, Ms. Hart and Mr. Houseman noted, is to represent its members and make sure they have good contracts. But trade petitions are also of great importance, they said, even though they can be frustrating — especially since the average length of a trade case, from the first gathering of evidence to the final decision, is three years.
“One thing Leo (USW International President Leo Gerard) highlights a lot is that to have a trade case; we have to show injury,” Mr. Houseman said.
Unfortunately, Ms. Hart said, this means there has to be clear evidence of lost production and lost jobs.
“An industry has to endure a significant blow before it can file a petition,” she said.
Also, with budget cuts in government, the ITC and Commerce Department are understaffed, like many other agencies, according to Ms. Hart.
“They don't have the manpower to do as thorough a job as necessary, and politics come into play,” she said.
Filing a trade case in tandem with a manufacturing company — as the USW did with Titan early this year, and before in 2007 in a successful case against Chinese OTR tire importers — is common between the union and the companies it represents, Mr. Houseman said.