International Convention Guests Visit Granite City and Learn How Bad Trade Policies Affect Illinois Steelworkers

Brian Finnegan AFL-CIO

More than 60 international labor guests attending the AFL-CIO convention in St. Louis, Mo.,crossed the river to Granite City, Ill., to visit the United Steelworkers Locals at the U.S. Steel plant that has operated there for decades.

Granite City and its Labor Temple that serves as the union hall for United Steelworkers (USW) Locals 1899, 50 and 68, have an illustrious place in U.S. labor history and progressive politics. These days, however, the community is feeling the impact of short-sighted trade policies that lead to fewer good jobs and local resources.

The week before Christmas in 2015, the plant was idled and laid off more than 2,000 people because of years of these bad trade laws and weak enforcement. This has allowed unfair competition that distorts markets and prices of steel. As the economy recovers from the 2008 financial crisis, demand for U.S.-made steel lags behind. Even with heavy investment in state-of-the-art production, U.S. plants can't compete with companies that have financial backing from governments like that of China.

There are now about 600 workers at the plant, but as one worker said to the visitors, "We're not making any steel here. We're finishing the steel made somewhere else."

The international labor leaders told similar stories of job losses due to dumped steel in Jordan, Egypt, and the Ukraine. As USW President Leo Gerard made clear, “the fight is not worker against worker, it is workers united around the world to fight against rigged rules that reward corporate greed.”

While he was a candidate and now as president, Donald Trump has claimed he would take action to defend U.S. production and workers from such unfair trade. But the administration has taken no action to enforce rules that would put the Granite City plant back online and workers back in the plant.

"We won't stop pushing this government to fix the trade laws and take action to stop illegal dumping of foreign steel until this plant and many others like it are up and running again," Gerard told the international visitors.

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Reposted from the AFL-CIO