May 24, 2019

Washington Wire: Steel & Aluminum Tariffs Potentially Coming


Steel & Aluminum Tariffs Potentially Coming  

Sources indicate the U.S. Secretary of Commerce is poised to recommend that President Trump impose tariffs or import quotas on foreign steel and aluminum from multiple or all countries. One Voice filed formal comments raising concern that imposing tariffs or import quotas on foreign steel or aluminum, but not the downstream products, will simply shift injury from producers to consumers, leading to more imports of competitors’ products containing foreign steel and aluminum coming in tariff free. This will hurt both One Voice members and U.S. steel and aluminum producers.  
At this time, there is no confirmation the level of tariffs under consideration or the amount of steel and aluminum the Trump administration will allow to enter the U.S. We expect a recommendation on steel any day this week and on aluminum by the end of June, leaving the President to make a final decision in the next 90 days. One Voice members are already hearing reports of steel and aluminum companies increasing their prices in anticipation of the coming protections, after which, they will then possibly impose surcharges like in the past. One Voice is actively working with government officials concerning the damage this could do.



One Voice Submits Comments to U.S. Trade Representative on Modernizing NAFTA
On June 12th, One Voice filed formal comments to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer asking the administration to remember the need for stability and predictability when updating NAFTA. In its comments, One Voice highlighted its members’ major concerns regarding Rules of Origin, State Owned Enterprises, currency valuations, removing red tape at the border, and avoiding changes in the agreement that would disrupt successful business models and arrangements in place for three decades. In addition, our members are increasingly reporting challenges with the ability of their sales personnel, service technicians and engineers to cross both the Mexican and Canadian borders. Improving efficiency, electronic filings and simplifying fees will increase economic growth, not only in the U.S., but throughout North America. Manufacturers need a universally transparent system for all three countries to prevent continued duty evasion, injuring North American manufacturers. 
Finally, within the boundaries of NAFTA, the seamless movement of people, products, and payments is essential to growing manufacturing in the U.S. Downstream suppliers spend far too much time on repetitive paperwork requirements, especially small businesses who lack the resources to navigate the maze of bureaucracy. Manufacturers recognize the opportunities presented in a seamless North American market but the red tape and long lead times effectively act as a barrier to trade. If all three nations enforce similar trade laws, unfair competition will have fewer opportunities to injure U.S. manufacturers. Regular information sharing by government authorities will allow all parties to coordinate efforts and identify market-distorting practices in non-NAFTA nations.



Senators Introduce Bill to Reverse Ambush Elections Rule
On June 15th, Senate Labor Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), along with 15 other Republican senators announced legislation protecting the rights of employers and employees by reversing the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) controversial ambush election rule. The NLRB rule, which took effect in 2015, forces union elections in as little as 11 days by restricting court challenges prior to an election. The rule also requires that employers provide union organizers with all available personal addresses and phone numbers for employees who are eligible to vote, even if they’ve chosen to reject the union.  
The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act (S.1350) would: 
  • Guarantee employees have enough time to gather facts before a union election, by lengthening to 35 days the minimum amount of time necessary to conduct union elections;
  • Provide employers at least 14 days to prepare their case to present before a NLRB election officer;
  • Reassert NLRB’s responsibility to address critical issues, including voter eligibility, before allowing a union to represent employees; and
  • Empower employees to control the disclosure of personal information.  
In addition, One Voice witnessed advancement on this issue on the House side last week. On June 14th, members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce considered three legislative proposals to promote freedom in the workplace: the Employee Privacy Protection Act (H.R. 2775), the Employee Rights Act (H.R.2723), and the House’s version of the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act (H.R.2776). One Voice will continue to with both the House and Senate to tilt the playing field away form unions back in favor of employees and employers.



Executive Order on Apprenticeships
On June 18th, President Trump issued an executive order to seeking to expand the number of U.S. apprenticeships from the current 500,000. This order will roughly double to $200 million the amount the government spends on some learn-to-earn programs. Importantly, it allows companies and trade associations to develop their own “industry-recognized apprenticeship” guidelines, which the Department of Labor (DOL) will review for quality and then approve. It also directs DOL to use funding to promote apprenticeships, including in the manufacturing industry. Finally, it creates a task force to recommend ways to promote apprenticeship programs. With 350,000 manufacturing jobs currently available, One Voice is taking an active role in setting up apprenticeship programs for its members.