'The state of America’s steel industry is in a recovery'

NWI Times

Steel executives and the United Steelworkers union leader testified at the Congressional Steel Caucus hearing in Washington D.C. Wednesday that the long-struggling industry has been recovering, largely as a result of tariffs.

"I’m here today to say that the state of America’s steel industry is in a recovery," USW International President Leo Gerard told members of Congress. "We should be proud of the workers who over the past decades have demanded action by their government, and who produce the steel every day. They are the real heroes in this story."

Gerard cautioned that work toward the steel industry's recovery was far from over and could be derailed.

"Now is not the time to do a victory lap as this industry is constantly under attack — not only from the cheating off-shore competitors, but also right here in Congress where certain members of Congress are seeking to limit the President’s authority to protect national security," Gerard said. "They would unilaterally return the fate of America’s steel and other key industries to the whims and schemes of foreign governments and off-shore producers."

U.S. Steel President and CEO David Burritt said the steelmaker, which employs about 28,000 workers, has benefited greatly from the Section 232 tariff of 25 percent on all foreign steel, which was signed just two weeks before the annual congressional hearing last year.

"The policy would not take full effect until July, yet positive impacts occurred swiftly and continue to today," Burritt said during his testimony. "Jobs are returning. U.S. steelmaking capacity is reviving. The U.S. steel industry is able to innovate and invest to modernize and strengthen our operations and our ability to supply America’s demand for steel. The Section 232 national security action on steel imports is a success and must be kept strong."

Burritt said the steelmaker, one of Northwest Indiana's largest employers, was undergoing a "renaissance."

"We’re hiring at each of our operating locations. At the Mon Valley Works, east of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, we hired over 400 new workers in 2018," he said. "U.S. workers and their families are benefiting directly. Late last year, a new four-year collective bargaining agreement with 14 percent wage increases was negotiated with the United Steelworkers. Non-represented U. S. Steel employees have received unprecedented financial performance awards and an expanded employee benefit package."

U.S. Steel also spent $350 million last year to try to improve its environmental performance company-wide.

"The Section 232 is having a positive impact, but the U.S. steel industry is still vulnerable," Burritt said. "Now is not the time to blink. The Section 232 must continue to be applied to all steel producing countries, especially the top import sources — whether that is a tariff or hard quota."

John Brett, president and CEO of ArcelorMittal USA, said the steelmaker was now "a stronger company."

"We just reported our best year financially since 2007," Brett said. "As a result, we have been able to increase our investments in our plants and our people."

ArcelorMittal invested more than $392 million on U.S. projects last year, including installing walking beam furnaces at ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor and upgrading shape control at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor's No. 3 continuous annealing line."

"Looking ahead, I would like to say that the outlook for 2019 is equally strong," he said. "In reality, demand for our steel products is expected to be steady, at best. Although import market share for our products is the lowest since 2013, global overcapacity in steel continues to be a threat. If global steel demand softens, the U.S. market will be the destination of choice, as always, putting the investments and expansions underway in the United States at risk."