The fight to save an industry and middle class jobs from imports

Cleveland Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio - The United States is losing middle class jobs; but those in the fight to limit steel imports are hoping they will be able to offer an example on how to save them.

At its core, the effort to limit steel imports is part of a much bigger effort to save American jobs. Not just any job, but "decent-paying" and "family supporting" jobs, to draw upon the chants of organized labor.

"The steel industry is important to the U.S. economy," said Robert Scott, director of trade and manufacturing research at the liberal Economic Policy Institute, or EPI, in Washington, D.C. "It directly supports more than a half-million jobs. Those jobs are in imminent danger."

Scott made his comments at a recent news conference about the study he co-authored on domestic steel jobs being at risk because of imports. The report says nearly 34,000 workers in Ohio are at risk of losing jobs because of steel imports. The figure ranks Ohio fourth for the number of workers in danger of displacement. (Texas was first with 59,800.) The report was done by EPI and the Law Offices of Stewart and Stewart.

The report said displacement has already occurred. Nearly 4,200 steelworkers in eight states have been certified for Trade Adjustment Assistance, given to workers who lost jobs because of international trade. It said about another 1,000 jobs have been lost in the first quarter of 2014.

On the surface it is a fight about trade. U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio and Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, are among those leading efforts to get the U.S. Commerce Department to impose a duty on tubular steel imported from South Korea, which is often used in shale gas exploration. They say that country's steel producers are dumping the product in the United States, meaning it is being sold for less than what it costs to produce. Those supporting imposing a duty say foreign governments often offer subsidies to their steel producers aimed at unfairly undercutting American manufacturers.  

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The fight to save an industry and middle class jobs from imports »