More than 300 people have been laid off at the Weirton facility, located on the border of Ohio and West Virginia, as a direct result of predatory trade practices by China and other foreign nations.
Workers at a West Virginia tin mill reeling from the devastating impacts of unfair trade received a Senatorial show of support last week.
Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Joe Manchin (D- W.Va.) visited the Weirton tin mill to meet with workers and offer their continued help in fighting back against unfair foreign trade practices like illegal dumping. More than 300 workers have been laid off at the facility, which makes tinplate for things like canned goods and baking sheets.
Both Brown and Manchin are on the record in support of a trade investigation filed by Cleveland-Cliffs and the United Steelworkers (USW) union seeking remedy due to unfairly priced imports of tin from China and other countries. Preliminary determinations announced by the Commerce Department in August concluded these products were being dumped into the U.S. market, and set duties of 122.52% on goods from China and smaller margins for products from Germany and Canada. A final ruling is scheduled for January 2024.
The two senators were joined on their tour by USW Local 2911 President Mark Glyptis and Cleveland-Cliffs President and CEO Lourenco Goncalves, who said that the visit is “a clear demonstration that the United States will not forfeit its ability to produce tin plate.”
“The Senators witnessed firsthand the ability of Cleveland-Cliffs and its USW workforce to produce the high-quality tin mill products that the U.S. market demands,” Goncalves said. “All we require is the ability to compete in a market free from the threat of dumped and subsidized imports. With the strong support of influential elected leaders like Senator Manchin and Senator Brown, I know we will prevail in addressing unfairly traded imports and ensuring a bright future for Weirton and its workers.”
The Weirton mill, of course, is not the only American steel facility to be forced to fight back against predatory trade practices. While a broad 25% tariff placed on steel imports has helped stabilize the overall industry, the global steel overcapacity crisis remains unresolved. China, meanwhile, continues to use a litany of unfair trade practices in its attempt to dominate the industry.
“Steel has been the backbone of innovation and economic growth in our great nation for generations. However, cheap steel, tinplate, and aluminum from foreign countries who do not play by the same rules or hold our same values, especially when it comes to issues of worker safety and compensation, are flooding the market,” Manchin said. “As the steel industry continues to rebound and reinvigorate itself, we must protect it against illegally dumped and subsidized imports to ensure we retain and grow the jobs we have here in Weirton and across the country.”
Brown echoed Manchin, noting that “Ohio and West Virginia Steelworkers can compete with anyone – if you have a level playing field.”
“More than 300 Cleveland-Cliffs workers should be working at this mill, but aren’t right now, because of illegal, dumped foreign steel from China and other countries,” Brown said. “Sen. Manchin and I will continue to press the Commerce Department and the International Trade Commission to crack down on these illegal, foreign imports in their final ruling. We will not stop fighting for American steelworkers and steel jobs.”
Brown and Manchin aren’t the only lawmakers who have been publicly supportive of the ongoing investigation. Indeed, there is bipartisan support for the case, with backing from lawmakers including Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.), JD Vance (R-Ohio), and Mike Braun (R-Ind.), alongside Reps. Carol Miller (R-W. Va.), Alex Mooney (R-W. Va.), Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), and Frank Mrvan (D-Ind.).
In remarks given during his visit and posted to social media, Manchin said that it’s vital that facilities like Weirton remain open because “building steel, if you don’t have steel, you don’t have a country.”
“The country, we failed because we thought we were doing the right thing 30, 40 years ago; didn’t work out, trying to help the rest of the world,” Manchin said. “Not only helped the rest of the world, they took over the jobs that we needed.”
Brown noted in a social post of his own that it’s evident that Cleveland-Cliffs has invested in improving the Weirton facility.
“Night and day when you walk through this plant, through this steel mill, compared to what it used to be in terms of worker safety record, in terms of making American steel. This company makes steel cleaner than any company in the world,” he said. “I’m proud to continue working with them.”
Glyptis, the USW local leader, said that despite the current challenges facing the mill due to unfair trade, he’s optimistic about the facility’s future.
“Given opportunity, and when government upholds and enforces the trade laws of our country, I think good things are going to happen, and we can’t go wrong. We’ll be successful,” Glyptis said. “We have a combination of legislators – Senator Brown, Senator Manchin, and others – a group that’s been with us for a long, long time, and that, combined with the efforts of the partnership built between the management and the union, mean Cleveland-Cliffs will go far.”