Union members, others seeking Obama’s help
Posted: Thursday, August 6, 2009 9:10 pm
Union City’s Goodyear plant is currently under the threat of closure, but local United Steelworkers think a decision to be made by President Obama could help save this plant.
As agreed upon by local Union members during a recent buyout plan presented to them by Goodyear, the Union City plant could be closed in the third phase of the three-phase plan. The first phase has already been executed with more than 550 associates agreeing to a buyout. Phase 2 calls for an additional 400 buyouts.
Local union members are joining United Steelworkers across the nation to ask Obama to support Section 421 in regards to passenger and light truck tires. They’re also asking for the help of the community.
Mike McKenzie, the Jackson/West Tennessee area coordinator for the Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council, said the local plant is asking everyone in the community to draft a letter to the president asking that he support the measure, which would essentially reduce the number of imports from China, therefore making it necessary for North American tire companies to produce more tires. This would hopefully bring more work to the local plant, he said.
The union suggests the letter read:
Dear President Barack Obama,
Mr. President, I am writing to ask you to please support a strong remedy in the Section 421 case on passenger and light truck tires. This directly affects the Goodyear Union City, TN plant in my community.
The future of American manufacturing is firmly in your hands. I am urging you to act by applying an adequate relief to stop the market disruption, such as recommended by International Trade Commission. We must curb China’s violations by strong and meaningful enforcement that will halt the exodus of manufacturing jobs. Enforcing trade rules is a critical part of rebuilding and stabilizing our manufacturing capacity in America . Thank you for your support.
In a letter to community members requesting their support, union officials said outcome of this case has far-reaching implications for industries beyond just tires. “A win means that we can start on a course of trade law enforcement; a loss will send a strong message to China that they can continue these practices without fear of recourse, leading to even more job loss.
“We all have something at stake. This case is about all workers who have lost jobs or are threatened with job loss from import surges from China. It’s also about the other industries that could be impacted if this case is lost, and the families and communities that will be left to deal with the consequences.”
The president has until Sept. 17 to make a decision whether or not relief will be granted. “Letters need to flood the White House well in advance of that deadline so that we can both make our voices heard and counter the job-exporters who are mobilizing to defeat this case,” union officials said.
United Steelworkers have requested an appearance before the U.S. Trade Representative public hearing scheduled for Friday in the final step of the trade case in which the U.S. International Trade Commission has determined that surging low cost consumer tire imports from China have damaged the domestic industry with lost jobs and factory shutdowns.
Recently, a majority vote of the International Trade Commission found that tariff relief was needed to urgently reduce tire imports. Evidence showed more than 5,100 domestic consumer tire production jobs were lost between 2004-08 by the flood of Chinese tire imports that undersold producers in the U.S. and caused market disruption. An additional 3,000 jobs have been announced as being eliminated by tire plant closures by the end of this year.
USW President Leo W. Gerard said, “Our nation’s job loss numbers at tire factories dramatically understate the impact China’s flooding imports have caused in the communities where our represented workers live. The consequences of lost tire production jobs have extended to many thousands of other jobs in supporting industries and suppliers that have also been lost.”
The ITC commissioners who found market disruption unanimously recommended that tariffs be placed across the board on passenger and light truck tires from China — 55 percent in year one, 45 percent in year two and 35 percent in year three.
According to the submission filed with the USTR, the USW will be asking the U.S. interagency group reviewing the remedy to be recommended to Obama that the ITC proposal should be supported. In addition, the USW wants the remedy modified upwards — above the 55 percent duty advocated by the trade commission in the first year.
Gerard explained, “We are urging a higher tariff in the first year so U.S. tire workers get the full relief intended to prevent the undermining of any frontloading of inventories by importers or Chinese exporters who are dumping higher volumes of imports prior to the Sept. 17, 2009, decision deadline by the president.” The USW president added, “Undermining the ability of the proposed remedy to correct market disruption in the first year is unacceptable.”
Under the Section 421 trade law provision for this case, the effective date of any remedy provided by the president would be Oct. 2. Consumer tire imports from China during 2004-08 have increased 215 percent by volume. Chinese tire producers have submitted to the trade commission, projected growth of exports to the U.S. in 2009-10 as an additional eight million tires over the 46 million tires imported from last year.
USW data for 2004-08 shows the domestic industry has suffered massive injury. Capacity by the tire companies is down 17.8 percent and production is down by 26.6 percent. Employment has been reduced by 14.2 percent, along with reductions in hours worked and wages paid. Net domestic sales were down 28 percent.
As pointed out by the USW, the ITC commissioners who voted on the remedy were unanimous that there would be little adverse effect on U.S. consumers from their recommended remedy. Gerard noted studies done by communities with tire plants that have been at risk have estimated the loss to the community from a tire plant closing are as much as $1 billion and the total job losses are a multiple of those at the plant. He said these studies were not done as part of the 421 case, but by economic development agencies to understand the possible effects from losing a major employer.
For more information on the USW’s Section 421 trade case against Chinese tire imports visit www.usw.org/tires/.
Published in The Messenger 8.6.09