U.S. Steel coalition launched, targeting grassroots support

  • New domestic steel advocacy group American Metal launched by Zekelman Industries, the largest independent steel pipe and tube manufacturer in North America
  • Messaging focuses on American Dream themes of economic prosperity and opportunity for advancement within industry for manufacturing workers
  • Policy goals include quotas on foreign steel and support for Trump administration’s steel and aluminum tariffs

The Steel Coalition

There’s a new player, or at least a new name, working to support the U.S. steel industry. Launched in January, American Metal describes itself as a “national grass-roots initiative supporting the domestic steel industry and all the hard workers whose livelihoods depend on it.” The organization is directly supported by Zekelman Industries, the largest independent steel pipe and tube manufacturer in North America. Soon after launching, it says, it began inspiring steelworkers across America to get involved.

It does not appear that additional organizations or corporations are behind the American Metal coalition to any significant degree. Only Zekelman Industries features prominently on the website header and in much of the promoted material like the About page and E-book, which touts the power of domestic manufacturing and detailing the history of the steel industry in the U.S.

The Messaging

To put it simply, the messaging of American Metal appeals to the American Dream. In the words of Barry Zekelman, executive chairman and CEO of Zekelman Industries, domestic manufacturing (namely, the steel industry) is important “because it provides jobs that are really meaningful, life-sustaining jobs… You can raise a family on these jobs.” In an interview featured on American Metal’s About page, Zekelman goes on to tout jobs in the steel industry that pay well and allow workers to climb the economic ladder through a stable, fulfilling, lifelong career.

Such high-paying industry jobs are key to the future economic prosperity and stability of our country, the coalition argues. “Every new job in the steel industry creates seven jobs in supporting industries,” American Metal states in multiple places across their website. Hence the industry has a ripple effect of strengthening communities through economically secure families, higher tax revenues, and higher overall employment levels.

The Goals

American Metal works to promote the U.S. steel industry and domestic manufacturing more broadly through two main avenues: enacting favorable public policy and encouraging companies and consumers to buy American-made products.

From a policy standpoint, this implicitly means tariffs on foreign steel or, as Zekelman Industries would prefer, quotas on foreign steel, which limit rather than tax goods imported to the U.S.

“Quotas allow some imports to enter our market without jeopardizing domestic producers,” said spokesperson Jelani Rucker in a blog post for American Metal. “This way, American end users always get the products they need, even when domestic manufacturers don’t have enough capacity to produce them. And because domestic manufacturers know the volume of imports is limited, they can invest in capacity increases with confidence.”

Zekelman Industries has invested substantially in lobbying Congress and the federal government in recent years, spending more than $300,000 in 2017 and $180,000 so far this year. Target issues include China steel trade issues, assistance to U.S. manufacturers, and Section 232 investigation on steel. Prior to that Zekelman Industries was known as JMC Steel Corp and acted as a subsidiary of Caryle Group’s lobbying efforts, regularly totally more than $300,000 in lobbying expenditures per year.

So far American Metal, by way of Zekelman Industries, can point to at least one high-profile policy victory: steel and aluminum tariffs implemented by President Donald J. Trump last March, which it touted as an “end to silent suffering in the domestic steel industry.” The tariffs came out of a conclusion from a Section 232 investigation by the Commerce Department last year that found the quantities and circumstances of steel and aluminum imports “threaten to impair the national security.” In response to the investigation, Zekelman Industries supported a letter from the Committee on Pipe and Tube Imports, an association of U.S. pipe, tube, and fittings producers, urging the Trump administration to act.

To put an public exclamation point on his support for the policy, Zekelman has announced that each employee will receive a $1,000 annual bonus for as long as the tariffs remain in place.

Image Credit: “Steelworks 16” by Ben Cooper is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

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