Steelworkers renew appeal for sanctions
As the clock winds down toward the indefinite idling of U.S. Steel's McKeesport Tubular Operations, the United Steelworkers union again is making an appeal for sanctions against alleged dumping of pipe imports on the American market.
At his union's international convention on Monday in Las Vegas, Steelworkers President Leo W. Gerard hailed his members “who are taking to the streets to stop the Koreans from stealing their jobs.”
Meanwhile, the International Trade Commission is scheduled to vote on Thursday on possible sanctions against “oil country tubular goods,” the oil and gas pipe exported from South Korea and eight other countries.
“We won't stop fighting in this case until (South) Korea is forced to pay for its job-stealing conduct and if the ITC won't do it, we are going to move to Congress and we will force Congress to do it one way or another,” Gerard said in an hourlong speech on the first day of a four-day union convention.
The United Steelworkers hoped an affirmative vote on sanctions would have a positive effect on employment at McKeesport Tubular, which is scheduled for indefinite idling on Sunday.
But U.S. Steel spokeswoman Courtney A. Boone said on Tuesday, “McKeesport's indefinite idling will not be impacted by the decision.” The scheduled shutdown will affect 160 rank-and-file and 20 management employees.
USW spokesman Gary Hubbard said the pipe under scrutiny by the ITC is not made in McKeesport, but rather standard line pipe is manufactured there.
Still, Hubbard said, “that's also being hammered by imports affecting our jobs at other pipe plants and consequently impacts jobs at the steel plate produced at our hot mills.”
McKeesport normally made pipe from steel provided by the three Mon Valley Works: Clairton where coke is produced, Edgar Thomson where steel is made and Irvin where that steel is rolled and finished.
Gerard never mentioned McKeesport during the keynote address at his union's convention, but referred to the May protest rally at U.S. Steel's Research & Technology Center in Munhall, one of a series of “Save Our Steel Jobs” events held in several states.
“We beat back China's dumping on tubular goods, and now we've turned our guns on Korea,” Gerard said. “We're doing and will do whatever it takes to stop this job stealing by China, Korea or any other country that is cheating to try to steal our jobs.”
The union said 2,500 delegates and 2,000 guests gathered for the convention at the MGM Marquis Convention Hall in Las Vegas. Three delegates are there on behalf of United Steelworkers Local 5852, which represents rank-and-file workers at McKeesport Tubular Operations.
Gerard testified at a July 15 ITC hearing regarding oil country tubular goods. The commission's scheduled vote Thursday would affect India, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine and Vietnam as well as South Korea.
Gerard testified that South Korea took advantage of a previous U.S. Department of Commerce ruling in its favor and flooded the U.S. market with its pipe.
He was joined before the ITC by area congressional representatives including U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, who said, “The demand for OCTG is skyrocketing, and the United States should be reaping the same benefits as our competitors.”
U.S. Steel president Mario Longhi testified before the commission as well. His company is one of those that asked in July 2013 for the commission to investigate the impact of imported pipe.
Longhi spoke at the Munhall rally but did not mention McKeesport in his ITC testimony. Last week the company said in its second-quarter earnings report that “shipments are expected to decrease, due to the indefinite idling of the McKeesport and Bellville (Texas) facilities, while average realized prices are projected to increase due to improved pricing and mix.”
Gerard's anger about trade policies is additionally directed at laws that require job loss as proof that imports are hurting an industry.
“One of our challenges after this convention is going to be to take on the fight to change the rules of trade,” Gerard said in Las Vegas, “so that if you prove that a country is cheating that should be enough. You shouldn't have to lose your job to prove it.”
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or email@example.com.