Canton Repository

March 1, 2002

Steelworkers rally for higher tariffs in D.C. 

Copley News Service

WASHINGTON -- Thousands of Steelworkers poured into the nation’s capital Thursday to exhort President Bush to tack a 40 percent, four-year tariff on steel imports to preserve jobs in American steel.

“Forty percent for four years, 40 percent for four years,” they
chanted as they faced the White House.

Less than two hours later, Bush met with a handful of lawmakers from steel-making states to solicit their views. Bush has until Wednesday to announce how he will respond to recommendations from the U.S. International Trade Commission that he impose tariffs between 8 percent and 40 percent on foreign steel. In an investigation ordered by the president, the independent government agency determined that imports have caused substantial harm to American steel makers.

U.S. manufacturers that purchase steel oppose tariffs because they would raise the price of steel.

Lawmakers who met with Bush recounted that the president said very little beyond soliciting their input.

“He listened very intently,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who is
urging a 40 percent tariff. “He made positive reactions but he didn’t make any commitment.”

However, at one point in the conversation, Durbin recalled, Bush turned to Commerce Secretary Donald Evans and said, “Don’t we
have 700 complaints at your department and over half of them are with steel?”

Evans said yes, Durbin recalled.

The rally, a last-ditch effort by the United Steelworkers of America to make an impression on the president, drew Steelworkers from Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York and other states.

“It’s about time we try to stop this dumping,” said Pat Graham, among more than 100 employees of the Timken Co. in Canton, who came to the rally. Graham boarded a bus at about 3 a.m. to get here. As thousands of other Steelworkers milled about, he said, “I think it’s a good showing. It should show the president and everybody else that we’re serious.”

Another Timken worker, Debbie Huskey, said the company has not been hurt by imports as much as other steel companies. Timken is the largest buyer of its own steel, which it uses to make bearings. Huskey made the trip anyway on behalf of friends who have been laid off.

“We depend upon steel here,” she said. “We need our steel here.”

Chuck Winemiller, who has been laid off three times during his 26 years at Timken, is looking for a permanent solution to the
difficulties that periodically face the industry. He supports a 40 percent tariff but said it is “just a Band-Aid” unless it is made

A handful of union members from Tuscarawas County also joined the rally even though they don’t make steel.

“We show solidarity,” said Bob Ross, president of a United Steelworkers local in Dover. “We don’t want charity, we just want a level playing field,” said Ross, who works for a manufacturer in New Philadelphia.

Phil Robson, a member of the same local, blames steel imports for his being laid off from a manufacturer of hydraulic cranes in
nearby Uhrichsville. Imports have hurt American steel companies, which are among the buyers of the cranes, he said.

Holding up U.S. flags, pro-tariff signs and, in one corner, two papier-mâché representations of Steelworkers, the crowd listened as speakers urged Bush to impose a 40 percent duty on steel for the maximum four years allowed by the law.

“Nothing else will prevent the dumping of foreign steel illegally,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. He urged Bush to ignore any
compromise that his political advisers suggest and instead “listen to your conscience.”

Many see the recommended tariffs as a way to fight dumping, but the commission did not determine whether foreign steel has been unfairly traded, or “dumped,” as Rockefeller said. It simply concluded that low-priced imports have hurt American steel makers.

Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, a former chairman of the Congressional Steel Caucus, told the crowd it should be
grateful to Bush for being the first president in recent times to initiate an investigation of steel, which led to the tariff

“We owe him a vote of thanks,” Regula said. “We waited a long time to get that.”

Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, likened the U.S. government to an enemy when it comes to the steel industry.

“The enemy has been within this country, against you. It has been your own government,” he said. “The government has to decide, is it going to be Russia or Steubenville, Ohio” that gets a preference when it comes to steel policy, he said, in reference to Russian steel imports.