Infrastructure Legislation is a Potential Game Changer — But We Aren’t There Yet

By Lou Delatore
Aug 18 2021 |
AAM’s Lou Delatore speaks at the “We Supply America” rally on Wednesday. Photo by United Steelworkers via Twitter

Speaking at Wednesday’s stop on “We Supply America” bus tour, AAM’s own Lou Delatore explains how infrastructure investment could provide a chance to fix our roads and bridges and invest in American workers. But there’s still work to do.

All week long, the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) has been taking part in the “We Supply America” bus tour organized by the United Steelworkers to drive home support for infrastructure investment. The Steelworkers are leading the call because, as the tour’s title makes clear, they supply America with the products needed to rebuild American infrastructure.

AAM field coordinator Lou Delatore joined the tour on Tuesday in Weirton, West Virginia, and on Wednesday, he spoke at a tour stop in Providence, N.C., just across the state line from Danville, Va., which is home to a USW-represented Goodyear tire plant.

Delatore has been a part of AAM team since our beginnings in 2007. Before that, he worked at Wheeling Pitt Steel, where he started as a laborer and worked his way up to caster. The caster, which is where molten steel transforms into a solid slab, is one of the hardest places in a steel mill to work, as it is very hot and, if proper safety instructions aren’t followed, can be dangerous.

So Delatore knows what he’s talking about when it comes to American manufacturing. In his remarks, he shared his thoughts on why infrastructure investment is so important — and why people who care about strengthening American manufacturing should take action to support it, too. His full remarks are below.

Welcome brothers and sisters. I’m glad to see that you all came out to participate in the We Supply America [tour]. Notice I didn’t say come out and attend; I said participate. That means you need to sign your cards, and you may need to call your congressman — I’m not quite sure yet. But this bill is very important.

The Steelworkers asked me a couple weeks ago if I could come out and talk a little about the Alliance for American Manufacturing. And folks, to talk a little about the Alliance for American Manufacturing, I’m going to have to go back into the early 2000s, and I’m going to have to talk about the United Steelworkers. Because in the early 2000s, folks, our government made some horrible trade policy, they made some terrible trade deals, and they let China join in the World Trade Organization, which has been a disaster.

Soon after that, the executive board for the Steelworkers, they had a vision, they had foresight, they understood that this is going to be a huge fight, a global fight, and a fight that they are just not going to be able to take on themselves. So due to their insight, they said, ‘You know, we gotta do something. We gotta get allies.’ So they reached out. They reached out to the companies, the manufacturers, the leading manufacturers in their industry. And they sat down at a table, and they said, ‘You know, we don’t agree on everything, and we never will. But what we do agree on is that China’s cheating, and our workers are losing their jobs.”

At this point, we’re hemorrhaging jobs, and they said, “If we don’t get together, and put our resources together, and form an alliance, we’re gonna lose, folks. We’re gonna lose.”

Not long after this, they started outsourcing our jobs. They’re giving tax breaks for cutting these to move overseas! Now, the government did us wrong. So we had to fight.

So in 2007, the Alliance for American Manufacturing was formed. It’s a Washington-based [organization]. And it’s great. When we first started, we walked into Congressional offices, with a company man, a union man, side-to-side, and they’d look at us and say, “Shouldn’t you people be fighting somewhere?”

No! No, we have something more important to do. We gotta put this country back on track. We’ve got to make up for the mistakes that you all made.

So for the last 14 years, since 2007, the Alliance for American Manufacturing and the United Steelworkers and manufacturers, leading manufacturers, have been walking hand-in-hand, fighting the fight. For 14 years, we’ve been going out, advocating and educating anybody that would listen. We started with our members, then we went to our communities, then we went to our community leaders, then we went to our legislators, then we went to the administration. And now we’re so far as if you run for an office, we’re coming to talk to you before you even have a chance to get elected.

And that’s what we’ve been doing, folks. And it leads us to now, this infrastructure bill. This infrastructure bill is huge to us. It’s huge, for many ways. Not only is it going to fix our roads and our bridges and modernize them — which needs done, we all know that — but it’s also doing a couple other things.

It’s teaching our government a different way to spend our money. Before, they would go out and buy this cheap Chinese steel to build a bridge in America. It made no sense to nobody, and they screwed that all up.

So what we’re doing now folks is we’re advocating. This bill right here is a game changer. This bill is a game-changer, because you know what? It’s putting the infrastructure, it’s putting a foundation onto our businesses, which will allow them to take their products to market safely and less inexpensively.

But it’s changed our government. As Fred was saying, the government’s buying different now. They’re buying more products with more American content. That’s what this bill’s gonna to do.

So, between this bill — ’cause we all know, this level-playing field’s bullshit, we haven’t been on a level playing field since the early 2000s — but this bill with the way that the government is going to have to spend their money, the right way, it’s going to level the playing field. And these tariffs that we have? We can’t let them get rid of these tariffs, folks. Because that’s helped us level the playing field.

So this bill is very important, not just for our infrastructure, which is huge — but for the way that America, our government, purchases products, manufactured goods, with our taxpayers’ money.

So please, do your part. This bill has gone a long way, this package has gone a long way. But I’ve been doing this for a long time, and the last mile of this stretch is always the one that gets ya.

So if you can please do your share, do your part. Because what do we do? We Supply America. Damn right we do. And we want to continue to supply America. So thank you, thank you for having me. I greatly appreciate it. You people should all be commended for being here today.

The “We Supply America” bus tour continues on Thursday with a stop in Wilmington, N.C., before concluding Friday in Pittsburgh, Pa. Click here to find out how to watch live.