Aug 06, 2023

USW, Cleveland

Aug 2, 2023

Workers at Cleveland-Cliffs’ Weirton tin mill help to anchor the region’s economy.

We support local businesses, pay the taxes that keep schools operating, and volunteer for the civic groups that keep our communities strong.

But all of this is in jeopardy right now because foreign manufacturers are dumping mass quantities of low-price tin sheet in U.S. markets, putting our livelihoods, our mill and the entire domestic tin mill industry at risk.

Fortunately, the United Steelworkers (USW) and Cleveland-Cliffs are fighting to safeguard our jobs and hold the cheaters accountable.

In January, the union and the company filed a countervailing duty (CVD) petition against China along with antidumping (AD) petitions against China and seven other countries, seeking duties to halt the dumping and save the industry.

The USW and Cleveland-Cliffs compiled overwhelming evidence of the illegal trade practices and provided this documentation to the government.

Both the U.S. Commerce Department and the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) responded with preliminary affirmative determinations, meaning they found merit in the petitions and agreed to continue investigating.

When ITC representatives visited Weirton as part of their investigation, my co-workers and I took the opportunity to underscore the stakes.

We explained that we manufacture the highest quality tin sheet in the world — so flawless that babies can eat out of the cans made from our substrate.

We pointed out that our mill has led innovations in tin production, including development of the easy-open can, for nearly a century and that we’ll proudly compete against workers anywhere on a level playing field.

And we showed how China and other foreign manufacturers game the system. They’re able to sell their products at below-market rates — even for less than the cost of manufacturing — because they receive illegal subsidies from their governments while paying low wages and subjecting workers to unsafe conditions.

USW members only want the government to enforce existing trade laws and require these offenders to adhere to the same rules that we do. Duties on these companies would ensure that any products they import are traded at fair prices.

The Commerce Department and the ITC are expected to issue final determinations later this year. Meanwhile, the threat posed by illegal dumping continues to grow.

Over the past year, U.S. Steel idled tin mills in Gary, Ind., and East Chicago, Ind., dealing a blow to hundreds of working families and their communities. As if those losses weren’t bad enough, Cleveland-Cliffs last month laid off 300 workers at Weirton, one-third of the workforce.

Besides the Weirton mill, only U.S. Steel’s Portage, Ind., facility and the Ohio Coatings Co. remain to make tin sheet for food cans and other crucial products. In addition to good-paying jobs, unfairly traded tin mill products puts a vital link in the nation’s manufacturing supply chains at risk.

There’s no reason for any of this.

Domestic demand for tin production remains strong, and American workers and manufacturers want nothing more than to supply it. In fact, the USW and Cleveland-Cliffs deliberately positioned the Weirton mill to lead the industry, provide jobs for future generations and sustain the region for decades to come.

With an eye toward the plant’s long-term viability, USW members negotiated contracts paving the way for the millions in capital upgrades needed to maintain the highest levels of efficiency and quality.

Even better, the company expressed its willingness to exceed those commitments and invest still more in the facility, given fair trading conditions.

The union and company continue working with Congress to build support for our trade case.

Nine members of Congress — including West Virginia Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, along with Reps. Carol Miller and Alex Mooney — already sent the Commerce Department and the ITC a letter demanding they halt the illegal imports that have “overrun” the industry.

They know as well as we do that if America loses the tin mill products industry now, it will be virtually impossible to resurrect it down the road.

This is our industry. We built it. And we’re not going to let it be poached from under our feet.

(Mark Glyptis is president of USW Local 2911, which represents hundreds of workers at the Weirton mill.)

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