The failures of multiple supply chains during the coronavirus pandemic show how critical it is to sustain the domestic steel industry, Members of Congress said during a roundtable discussion held online Thursday.
Steel industry leaders and members of the Congressional Steel Caucus took part in a discussion sponsored by the American Iron and Steel Institute and the Alliance of American Manufacturing. They touted the significance of passing infrastructure spending and maintaining the Section 232 tariffs to preserve the American steel industry, noting how dependence on foreign manufacturers has led to shortages of semiconductors, cars, flowers, toilet paper and many other products during the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. Rep. Frank Mrvan, D-Highland, co-chair of the Congressional Steel Caucus, said the steel industry is critical to Northwest Indiana and the nation.
"We know when steel thrives, when workers thrive, when our Region and economy thrive, we all succeed," he said. "I appreciate your engagement supporting our communities in times of need, like how U.S. Steel has given financial resources to Methodist Hospital Foundation earlier this year to support our frontline medical workers, and all the contributions that Cleveland-Cliffs has made and all that USW has done for our Region."
Mrvan said it's also important for steelmakers to be vigilant about protecting the environment and to work with state and local lawmakers.
"I want us to continue to work together to ensure we are leaving our natural resources and environmental wonders preserved and protected for generations to come," he said.
He said steelworkers frequently tell him at barbecues, chili cookoffs, rallies and other events how critical the infrastructure spending will be to supporting jobs and investment at the steel mills over the next decade. Workers also have expressed concerns to him about keeping the 25% tariffs on most foreign-made steel.
"We know when the administration put that in place it wasn't going to be in place for all eternity," he said. "We have to understand the markets. We have to have strong trade policies that absolutely protect us against bad actors and subsidized steel.
"As we go forward, I want to do this in a partnership. I want to do this in a collaborative effort so when we're making changes in policy it advocates for the steelworkers and advocates for the steel industry. We want workers, industry and manufacturing thriving. We want the people in my district to be able to put food on their table, send their kids off to college, afford healthcare and have a good pension."
USW President Tim Conway said it might make sense to restrict imports when domestic steelmaking capacity is under 85%.
"There should be a flywheel," he said. "But that flywheel should be imports and not our mills."
Congressional Steel Caucus Co-Chair Tim Conway said he was working on getting U.S. Department of Energy funding to research how to reduce carbon emissions and make steel mills more environmentally friendly to ensure their longterm sustainability.
"It's easier said than done," he said.