Flanked by steelworkers, Senator Casey slams Pacific trade proposal
Sen. Bob Casey speaks with steelworkers and representatives of USW Local 1219, Mason Murray, left, of North Versailles, and Bob Morin, right, of Irwin, at USW Local 1219, in Braddock, Friday, May 1, 2015. Both men have been steelworkers for over 40 years.
Saturday, May 2, 2015, 12:01 a.m.
Flanked by steelworkers and union officials, and with a hulking steel mill as a backdrop, Sen. Bob Casey railed Friday against a proposed trade agreement between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim nations as a job killer for the steel industry.
Casey, a Democrat from Scranton, said the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is being pushed by the White House and business groups, will decrease wages of workers and lead to job losses.
“Pennsylvania gets the short end of the stick in trade agreements,” the senator said during a news conference in Braddock, a stone’s throw from U.S. Steel Corp.’s Edgar Thomson Works.
It was an appropriate setting to link the impact of international trade on domestic jobs. Downtown-based U.S. Steel said this week that it has laid off 2,800 workers since the beginning of the year and could lay off another 6,200 because its business is being hammered by cheap — and often unfairly subsidized — imports.
The steel maker curtailed production and shut down plants across the country, and warned workers in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio and Texas that they could be laid off.
“A big part of the reason for layoffs is the onslaught of unfairly traded steel,” said Leo Gerard, international president of the United Steelworkers union.
The trade deal, a priority for President Obama, includes a proposal that would give the White House power to negotiate deals that Congress could only approve or reject, but not amend. Known as the Trade Promotion Authority, it would limit a key congressional oversight function, Casey said.
Although many Republicans, who control Congress, support broadening trade, Obama is getting pushback from Democrats who are concerned such agreements will hurt the United States.
Business groups, such as the lobbying group Business Roundtable, have said that removing barriers to trade in Asia could lead to increased hiring in America and greater competitiveness for their companies overseas.
Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican from the Lehigh Valley, was unavailable to comment.
U.S. Steel CEO Mario Longhi has called for the Trade Promotion Authority legislation to include updated thresholds that American companies have to meet to prove they have been hurt by foreign imports. He says companies have to shut down plants and put people out of work before they can show they were injured.
“I think the debate around TPA has provided us with a window of opportunity where we can implement what I consider to be the ultimate solution to dumping in the country,” Longhi said Wednesday about adding the updated thresholds, known as “injury standards.”
Casey said he pushed for the revised standards to be included in the proposal. But including it in the legislation does not change his opposition to the bill, he said.
“We’re trying to make TPA as strong as we possibly can,” he said.
Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 email@example.com.
God BOB GO! – Louis Sheehan