Emil Ramirez, Director for USW District 11, joined a small group of taconite miners from the shutdown mines on Northern Minnesota's Iron Range for a private jobs crisis leadership summit yesterday at the Mesabi Range Community and Technical College. The event was hosted by Gov. Mark Dayton.
Strong statements were delivered for the urgency of federal, state and local government authorities to provide more immediate relief against the global onslaught of steel imports that have shut down half of the region's steel sector mining jobs. Currently, more than 2,000 iron ore miners are on layoff.
Among those gathered at the two-hour private session were U.S. President Obama's Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Minnesota's U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, U.S. Rep. Rich Nolan, plus state legislative leaders, steel industry executives and laid-off USW-represented iron ore miners.
USW Director Ramirez sounded a consistent theme: "We are at war with China's illegal steel imports flooding into our market. During some months last year, China dumped more than 100,000 tons of cold-rolled sheet into our market and that was not the only product or country stealing our jobs here on Northern Minnesota's Iron Range."
He related that although American steel producers and the USW are having some modest success in getting enforcement duties on dumped and subsidized steel imports from China, there's a tsunami of steel products from all steel producing countries threatening steel sector jobs.
"This is just one battle in what is expected to be a protracted war, unless swift, concerted government action is taken both here and internationally," Ramirez declared.
"We appreciate Gov. Dayton's assembling of concerned political leaders and policy makers from Minnesota's congressional delegation and state legislatures, but we need immediate relief for our iron ore mining families who have been on lay-off since this past spring."
Dan Hill, a USW Local 6860 miner, spoke directly to White House Chief of Staff McDonough, saying he was among the 400 workers laid-off at United Taconite since May due to the lack of demand for the plant's iron ore pellets. Hill says he wants the industry salvaged not just for him, but for his seven-year-old son, Riley, who told his dad recently that he wants to be a miner when he grows up.
"I told him (McDonough) to make sure our kids have a future up here. That we're not the last generation of miners."
Tom Conway, USW International Vice President, who is currently leading negotiations with several domestic steel companies in Pittsburgh, said: "Global overcapacity in steel and continued abuse of the system by foreign companies and their governments requires a major overhaul of U.S. trade policy and enforcement."
"For decades, American workers have paid the price of failed trade policies and inconsistent enforcement of flawed trade agreements," he added. "Congress and the administration need to take responsibility for changing the system that has cost more than a million manufacturing jobs and shuttered thousands of factories, mainly in industries that employ USW members."
The USW represents 850,000 workers in North America employed in many industries that include metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining and the service and public sectors. For more information: http://www.usw.org/.