Despite President Donald Trump’s promises to bring back steel manufacturing, many steel mill workers are facing layoffs.
For example, ArcelorMittal-owned mill in Conshohocken, Penn. announced in September that it would cut 150 of 207 jobs based on seniority. Many steel workers who voted for Trump because they believed he’d be a boon for the industry are feeling abandoned by the president, New York Times reported on Friday.
“He’s just delaying it,” Chuck Hauer, a Trump voter and steelworker in Conshohocken told the Times. “And I think the delay is hurting us more than he knows.”
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump made bringing back steel manufacturing jobs a focal point. “When I’m president, guess what, steel is coming back to Pittsburgh,” he said at a rally in April 2016. He also appealed to voters by rejecting trade deals that he said hurt American workers and then followed up by withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and ordered investigations into trade pacts—including into aluminum and steel imports.
The wait to see what the Trump administration plans next has caused uncertainty among industries that use steel. There is also a rush for foreign companies to export their steel into the U.S. before any tariffs are put into place. In the U.S. steel imports were up 19.4% in the first 10 months of 2017, compared to last year’s figures, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.
Thus far, no tariffs have been introduced, due to disagreement within the Trump administration. The automobile industry along with others have warned that tariffs could end up pushing up costs and lead to job cuts.
“Many economists and industry experts agree that the United States faces unfair competition and artificially low prices that have damaged the domestic steel industry,” Annie Lowrey wrote earlier this year for the Atlantic. “But they don’t agree that a tariff is the right approach for addressing the problem. They argue that tariffs could backfire, hurting American businesses and workers without doing much to revive the Rust Belt.”
A Commerce Department spokesperson told the Times that Trump administration is “aware of the plight of American steelworkers and will continue working to halt unfair trade practices that harm our economy and kill American jobs.” And the president may turn to trade now that his signature tax bill is signed into law.