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May 13, 2014

Guest view: U.S. must enforce trade laws so steelmakers have even playing field

Domestic steelmakers -- including my employer, U.S. Steel Corp. in Granite City, the biggest domestic producer of pipes and tubes sold to oil and gas extracting companies -- stand to lose thousands of jobs because of imports being sold more cheaply than the foreign competitor can make them. It's called dumping. It's also called cheating.

U.S. Steel has filed a trade case against South Korea based on the alarmingly rapid and intense surge in this steel product imported into the U.S. market. There is an abundance of evidence that this is being dumped at prices below value and in deceptive ways designed to circumvent U.S. and international trade laws.

A negative Department of Commerce ruling in July could potentially devastate the domestic steel industry and particularly U. S. Steel's operations here in Granite City. These aren't just thousands of steelworker jobs. For every good manufacturing job lost, seven additional jobs are lost in surrounding communities.

A mere two years have passed since our leaders in Washington, D.C., signed onto the Korea Free Trade Agreement. We should not be reliving the same story in which foreign competitors violate trade laws, as they did in 2002 when 45 domestic steel manufacturers filed bankruptcy because of unenforced trade laws depressing steel prices to an unsustainable level.

Since that time, both the United Steelworkers and U.S. steel companies have made major sacrifices with capital investments and employee cross-training to become world competitive. More than $1.6 billion has been invested by U.S. pipe manufacturers during the past two years.

No amount of cleverness, no high-tech "jobs of tomorrow" and no extra training can replace the millions of middle-class jobs that keep disappearing from our economy. There are more pacts in the hopper, including the Trans Pacific Partnership. We were promised that the "glories of globalization" would shower prosperity across our land, but the downward spiral of our middle class standard of living continues.

We urge the entire community to join the Alliance for American Manufacturing, the United Steelworkers and U.S. Steel and attend a major rally at 3 p.m. Friday at Civic Park, 20th Street and Delmar Avenue in downtown Granite City. This is everyone's chance to make their voice heard and demand that Congress pressure the Department of Commerce to do what is right. Enforce trade laws -- penalize cheaters -- and save our families' future.

Doug May is a crane operator at U.S. Steel/Granite City Works and a trustee of United Steelworkers Local 1899.

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