Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Ten organizations urge the White House & Congress to maintain a key Buy America standard.

The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) joined with nine leading organizations representing the iron and steel industry on Thursday to send a letter to President Trump to express “absolute and unqualified support” for strong Buy America preferences.

The foundation of the Buy America program is “the longstanding requirement that all steel manufacturing processes occur in the United States for a product to be Buy America compliant,” the organizations write. This ranges from the actual production of steel to steel finishing processes, a standard known as “melted and poured” that has been applied since 1983.

“Requiring that all processes occur domestically ensures that every critical stage of the steelmaking process occurs in the United States, encouraging R&D, capital investment, and jobs here in America,” the organizations write. “Strong Buy America laws maximize the return on the nation’s investment in our infrastructure.”

The letter comes at a time when Buy America opponents are trying to significantly weaken Buy America by allowing imported steel to be finished in the United States and then used in taxpayer-funded infrastructure projects. The organizations write:

“Such an unwarranted change would encourage the outsourcing of the major elements of the steelmaking supply chain that account for a majority of the capital investment and employment. Buy America is and should continue to be a preference for steel that is produced in the United States — not a preference for foreign-produced steel that is merely finished here.”

There’s no doubt that weakening Buy America requirements would put steel jobs at risk, another blow to steel companies and workers who are already reeling from the ongoing steel imports crisis.

Workers like Cliff Tobey, who works as a mechanic on Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range. Tobey and his colleagues extract low-grade iron ore on the range, which is then turned into taconite pellets — the first step in the process of making steel.

If the Buy America standard is weakened, Tobey and his fellow Iron Range workers will see their livelihoods put at-risk. Tobey told us he hopes the Trump administration will be clear on what is “really made in the USA.”

“We’d like to see that he talks about truly made in the USA. Not a bunch of Chinese slabs that run through our mills and take a bunch of hot band steel and treat it and all of a sudden it’s made in the USA,” Tobey said. “Made in the USA should be about the American workers and not about a catch phrase.”

The 10 organizations note in the letter that the melted and poured distinction “has enormous implications for capital investments and jobs in the U.S. manufacturing sector.”

“Put simply, steel is ‘made’ here only if it is ‘melted’ here,” they write.

In addition to AAM, organizations signing the letter include the American Foundry Society; American Institute of Steel Construction; American Iron and Steel Institute; Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute; Iron Mining Association of Minnesota; Municipal Castings Association; Specialty Steel Industry of North America; Steel Manufacturers Association; and the United Steelworkers union.

The letter also was sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Read the full letter.