AAM’s policy intern on her first-ever congressional advocacy trip.
Last week, dozens of steelworkers came to Washington, D.C., hoping to gain congressional support for the national security investigations into steel and aluminum imports. Over two days, steel ambassadors from companies like U.S. Steel, ArcelorMittal, and AK Steel met with Members of Congress, asking them to push President Trump to move forward with the investigations, as he promised.
As an intern for the Alliance for American Manufacturing, I had the pleasure of joining a group of steelworkers on their trip to Capitol Hill and experienced first-hand what was going on in those meetings. While most of my morning was spent fan-girling every chance I saw a Senator — I’m a public policy major, after all — I also watched as the steelworkers in my group brought their stories to life in meetings with Senators and in the hallways of Capitol Hill.
While traveling with a group of guys from Indiana and Pennsylvania, I found myself reflecting on my life greatly. My grandfather moved from Puerto Rico to Lorain, Ohio to work for the railroad at Carnegie Steel and retired with 30 years of service. My family grew up in the city of Lorain when the mill was thriving, but the once flourishing community began to dissipate when the mill went under. Years later, the impact of steel on a community is still present, and as I listened to the stories the steelworkers told, I couldn’t help but think of my own hometown.
For instance, a gentleman in my group shared a story of his hometown where local plants have laid off workers for almost two years. To begin his story, he shared why he pursued a job in steel, and ultimately it was to have a steady middle-class lifestyle that would pay the bills and get his children to college. This is the case for many workers without college degrees.
Surging imports have flooded the U.S. market, and American steel mills have had to decrease production and lay off workers. In December, it will hit the two-year mark for some of the gentleman's coworkers. At this point, they lose their benefits, and many will be forced to retire to continue receiving these benefits for their families. Unfortunately, those being forced to retire would much rather have their jobs back and continue working for years to come, than to do this.
Spending two days with steelworkers from across the nation was such a fruitful and refreshing experience. Listening to the impact of imported steel and trade on the jobs of American people who have worked in these positions for over 20 years, I couldn’t help but be moved by their experiences.
Many times, we get so wrapped up in our own world, but understanding the lives of those in the steel industry made me more aware of how connected we truly are. As they explained how steel is created and how many different plants it goes through to create that final product, I envisioned what that process would like if manufacturing was at its peak and how many jobs would be created by American steel production.
Not only was the experience fruitful, I was truly refreshed to be around normal guys. They chuckled and joked around with D.C. staffers, talked about their reasons for joining the trip, and after the day was over, kicked back with a few drinks. I truly would not have wanted to be around a different group of people. It felt so good to be away from the professional rhetoric and political jargon, to have conversations with everyday Americans and learn first-hand from their experiences.
Overall, my time spent on Capitol Hill with steelworkers was amazing; I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to join.
Since Trump opened the investigation in April, steel imports have jumped more than 21 percent and, if action is not taken soon, are likely to continue to rise. The fate of steelworkers remains in Trump’s hands. Until his administration releases the findings of the investigations — and decides to act — steelworkers across the nation will continue to face layoffs and plant closings.
I found it very encouraging to see steelworkers in D.C. using their voice to be ambassadors for their communities. I hope they continue this fight, and will eventually see a positive result.