Has a Factory Closure or Offshoring of Jobs Affected You?

By John Jeffers
Apr 26 2022 |
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The International Trade Commission is gathering input from Americans impacted by trade policy, and we can help you submit your story.

I am one of the millions of American factory workers who got laid off from my job because of offshoring.

I worked for years at the Horsehead Corporation steel mill in Potter Township, Pa., and even served three terms as president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 8183. I knew my fellow steelworkers well, and when our mill shutdown because of unfair trade, I watched our community fall apart.

I was able to tell my story recently at a public forum hosted by the International Trade Commission (ITC) — and if you have been affected by plant closures or trade with countries like Mexico or China, you can, too.

Here’s what I said:

“A lot of people don’t think of the aspects of the general life of a person, the human impacts. In my local, I had a couple people seek mental health treatment because of the shutdown, a couple committed suicide, a lot of divorces because of this. This is how trade has impacted local people. You have a lot of these ghost towns, I call them, all you have left is your underserved community of people who used to make a lot of good money… When you have a family it’s hard to move for a job – even though the money may be good, your main base is wherever it may be. It’s tough moving to a new place.”

The ITC is currently doing a research project examining the impact trade has on American communities, and it is accepting written submissions until May 17. I really encourage you to participate, and the Alliance for American Manufacturing can help you do so by sharing some information with us here.

There’s no wrong way to tell your story. Even a sentence or two will make a difference. But if we don’t share our stories with the ITC, they aren’t going to hear them — and they’ll keep listening to the same old experts, many of whom pushed for the policies that led to millions of layoffs and tens of thousands of factory closures.

On projects like this, the government always hears from the big global corporations and lobbyists, and receives countless studies from academics. But rarely does the government hear directly from people like us, who actually live through the real-world effects of U.S. trade policy.

That’s why it’s so important that you share our story, whether you work in factory or went through a layoff or are a small business owner serving the local mill.

Let’s make sure they hear us this time. You can visit this page on our website to get started.

I wasn’t the only one to participate in the ITC forums. Other factory workers, community members and local business owners also offered their perspective. Here’s a sampling of what they told the commission:

“Here it has totally devastated our community. Of course, the trade agreements have seriously affected us… We lost approximately 1,200 workers here because of layoffs. It’s a domino effect…. Not only have we lost employees here, what’s also terrible about it is that it affects the tax base in our communities. Gas stations, restaurants and many other businesses in the community have shut down. The vendors that came out and service our plants lost their jobs as well.” —Andrea Hunter, U.S. Steel Great Lake Works in Michigan

“For me, I was 61 years old when my plant shut down, and I got trained, but as an African American male over 60, there weren’t a lot of recruiters for looking for African American males over 50… These bad trade deals leave us behind where we were once pillars of the community… Places like Philly, Gary, and Chicago, we have some stuff in our neighborhoods. Through successful union jobs we’re able to survive — until the doors close. And we never get a second chance.” —Lindsay Patterson, formerly of Allied Tube and Conduit Corp., in Pennsylvania

“There’s a wave effect in these communities… it’s an ecosystem and an economy to itself, not to mention the family-owned businesses. We do not have real-time trade enforcement. We have to prove the burden of loss, and by the time we do, it’s too late.” —Rick Pietrick, Cleveland-Cliffs in Ohio

“We represent a diverse group, including the Ford Rouge complex, which is a gigantic complex with five manufacturing plants… if we lose work it affects all groups. But the domino effect goes into our independent part suppliers, Detroit [workers], the majority of which are minorities. And they get hit the hardest.” —Mark DePaoli, United Autoworkers Local 600 in Michigan

“We need to start having more conversations… we need to have more community leaders. We need to bring more of those people in and talk about how trade has impacted Black people in a profound way.” —E.J. Jenkins, U.S. Steel Gary Works in Indiana

“In 2011, the city of Reading, Pennsylvania was designated the poorest city per capita in the country. Once one of the most thriving cities on the East Coast, it had industries all over the place… a lot of that was caused by terrible trade policies, companies closing down, offshoring. My particular story, I worked for over 40 years for a tubing manufacturer. We were locked out. And the employer said, ‘Look, I’m very sorry this lockout happened, but we compete with China… to compete with China, we just cannot pay union wages.”  —Dean Showers, formerly of USW Local 6996 in Pennsylvania and current AAM field coordinator

Like I said earlier, there’s no wrong way to tell your story, Elizabeth. But if we don’t share our stories with the ITC, they aren’t going to hear them! 

You can visit here to get started.