United Steelworkers Disappointed with President Trump’s SOTU Address
Matthew Greenwood posted on February 12, 2019 |
Union had called for the President to honor his commitments to trade.

"American workers are looking for action from the administration that promised trade transformation," said United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard on the eve of President Trump’s State of the Union speech.

Steelworkers have taken the brunt of some of the trade instability that has occurred under the Trump administration: tariffs on aluminum and steel, trade spats with China and trade deals that have either been renegotiated or abandoned entirely.

“American workers are looking to President Trump to assure them in his State of the Union address that he will keep the pledges he made on the campaign trail to replace the broken free trade regime that has cost the United States tens of thousands of factories,” said Gerard.

Gerard points to GM as an example of the administration’s failures. Last year GM announced that it would move a large portion of its vehicle production to Mexico. At the same time, Gerard accuses the automaker of bringing “nearly $7 billion into the United States for half the tax rate, a bonus for offshorers that was slipped into the 2017 GOP tax law.” The union leader says Trump must get rid of incentives for manufacturers like GM to offshore jobs.

In his February 6 speech President Trump claimed the U.S. had created 600,000 new manufacturing jobs under his watch.

While not making concrete commitments, the President said he was working on a new trade deal with China—one that must include “real, structural changes to end unfair trade practices, reduce our chronic trade deficit, and protect American jobs.” He also claimed that the new USMCA trade agreement would, if ratified, bring back manufacturing jobs.

It likely won’t be enough for the USW. The steelworkers union has been openly critical of the President’s trade policies in the past, claiming that his actions have hurt blue collar jobs more than they’ve helped.

USW President on trade deficit in 2017.

Last year Gerard said steelworkers were “terribly disappointed and hugely frustrated” with Trump, particularly in his promise in 2017 to investigate steel and aluminum imports from China and other countries accused of violating trade policies. The President had taken little action since then, said Gerard at the time—and the State of the Union speech may not signal any significant change.

Gerard also said that when steel and aluminum tariffs were imposed, China was granted exemptions that the union leader claims defeat the purpose of the tariffs—while Canada, an important partner in the auto industry, was not.

Ultimately, the President’s speech may not have had the message the USW was hoping for.

Read more about how manufacturing is doing under President Trump at Steel Squeeze: A Look at How the Trump Tariffs Could Impact Manufacturing in North America.

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