Battle to Defend Steel and Aluminum Continues

In mid-August, the Canadian government announced consultations on the possible imposition of steel ‘safeguards’ on a number of products coming into Canada. A welcome but minor step in the battle to protect the Canadian steel industry, communities and jobs.

For years, Steelworkers on both sides of the U.S. border have decried and battled the harmful and unfair dumping of steel and aluminum by countries, including China, South Korea and Turkey. We have insisted that this massive unfair practice is killing jobs and communities in the integrated markets of Canada and the U.S.

However, when Donald Trump announced tariffs aimed at this dumping, he included Canada in his retaliation. On June 1st, the tariffs came into effect and Canada imposed counter-tariffs of equal value on a variety of U.S. goods.

Beyond the direct harm of the U.S. tariffs, the Steelworkers sounded the alarm of increased dumping from countries taking advantage of the tariffs and attempting to use Canada as a backdoor to America. From the start, USW called on the Canadian government to take strong and immediate action to protect our borders, while at the same time denouncing Canada as a target of the U.S. tariffs.

We are currently participating in seven cases before the Canadian International Trade Tribunal, all of which are targeted at the dumping of various steel products into the Canadian market. These action by USW is a key part of the effort to protect the Canadian market from the effects of the US tariffs on steel.

There are real-world impacts of these senseless tariffs and counter-tariffs now affecting steel, aluminum and many other products crossing the Canada-U.S. border in both directions.

For example, manufacturers in New York State and elsewhere in the U.S. rely heavily on raw aluminum that is produced by Quebec Steelworkers at some of the most efficient and environmentally friendly smelters in the world.

This aluminum is traded between the U.S. and Canada by companies that follow trade rules. Workers are paid middle-class wages and have decent working conditions and safe workplaces.

Much of Quebec’s aluminum is shipped to American manufacturing plants for processing and some of these American products are shipped back across the border to facilities in Canada to be manufactured into auto components.

Many of these components are then shipped to U.S. auto plants, where they are used to build new cars and trucks. Many of these vehicles are exported to Canada to be purchased by Canadian consumers.

These are the good jobs and strong communities we are now fighting to protect.

This trade war insanity means major increases in production costs for businesses on both sides of the border, threatening their viability and the jobs of American and Canadian workers.

The tariffs and counter-tariffs between the U.S. and Canada does nothing to address the real issue of cracking down on the ‘bad-actor’ countries that break the rules and dump their products into the Canadian and American markets.

These countries don’t allow their workers to join real trade unions or negotiate meaningful collective agreements. Their workers are exploited, forced into terrible working conditions with extremely low pay. Safety standards and environmental protections are lacking, or non-existent.

These bad-actor countries massively subsidize their industries, and then dump their steel, aluminum, paper, tires, and other products into our markets, either directly or indirectly.

This is why the USW supports tariffs and other sanctions against these ‘bad-actor’ countries. And it’s why Steelworkers will continue to lead the fight for fair trade and against Trump’s war on our jobs.

This article appears in the September 2018 edition of the National Director's Update.

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