WASHINGTONFor a union such as the United Steelworkers (USW), ensuring that its members' interests are represented in the areas of legislation, regulation and trade is vital.
With a membership of 1.2 million in a wide range of industries, including tires and rubber, making the connections that will help all USW members is crucial, according to USW Legislative Director Holly R. Hart and Legislative Representative Roy Houseman Jr.
We focus on so many things regarding our members, Ms. Hart said.
Buy American provisions in federal procurement rules are vital to all USW members, according to Ms. Hart and Mr. Houseman. So are transportation infrastructure and water resources.
Anything that will influence manufacturing in this country is important to us, Ms. Hart said.
In August 2015, the USW won high antidumping and countervailing duties against passenger and light truck tire imports from China. On Jan. 8, it joined Titan International Inc. in filing petitions against OTR tire importers from China, India and Sri Lanka, and on Jan. 29the day the International Trade Commission (ITC) held a preliminary hearing on the OTR tire petitionsthe 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 frustratingespecially 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 W. 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 told Tire Business.
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 companyas the USW did with Titan early this year, and before in 2007 in a successful case against Chinese OTR tire importersis common between the union and the companies it represents, according to Mr. Houseman.
We are more than willing to work with USW-represented companies who are willing to file antidumping and countervailing duty cases, he said. Working together, we can ensure workers and our member companies are able to fairly compete against illegal trade practices.
Working together, the union and the company are able to present a holistic view of a trade case to the ITC. This view can represent not just loss of employment and hours worked from the union's perspective, but also how a company has lost profitability because of illegally dumped or subsidized imports.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which Congress will consider later this year, has been a very long process for the USW and other unions, according to Ms. Hart.
We have been trying very hard to work with the administration through the Labor Advisory Committee to make this a trade agreement that workers could support, she said.
Unfortunately, we saw our efforts were pretty much for naught.
The TPP has some differences from previous agreements, but it's not necessarily better.
The TPP's failure to address labor issues for workers abroad are a concern for the USW, as are the rules of origin for Chinese auto manufacturers, Ms. Hart said. In some cases, a car manufactured in China using mostly Chinese parts can be said to meet the TPP's rules of origin, she said.
This will affect tires, rubber, any American industry that supplies the auto industry, she said.
The USW is not sanguine that the TPP will help workers in any of the 12 TPP-member countries, according to Hart.
It's been 20 years since NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) passed, she said. Wages are still less in Mexico than in the U.S., and working conditions in Mexico are terrible. NAFTA has done nothing to improve those conditions.
The provisions of the TPP are now set in stone, but the USW and other unions are still working to persuade members of Congress to oppose it, Ms. Hart added.
To reach this reporter: [email protected] crain.com