New Well-Funded Advocacy Group Called The Alliance For American Manufacturing Is Up And Running In Washington, D.C.
BY RICHARD McCORMACK
The United States steel industry and its labor union have created a new organization in Washington, D.C., to fight on behalf of all U.S. manufacturing, Manufacturing & Technology News has learned.
The Alliance for American Manufacturing is expected to be officially launched in March, but it has a secure and healthy level of funding, new offices on K Street, an executive director, a board of directors, a staff and a well-defined mission.
The new group is more than a lobbying organization, according to those involved. It will be a think tank on American manufacturing, conducting its own research, contracting with the academic and economics community to do original research on the impact of trade on companies, workers and communities, and highlighting the importance of manufacturing in the economy. The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) will communicate the results of its research and advocate on behalf of manufacturing by building grass-roots efforts to impact policy and policymakers.
"Two organizations are at work here," explains Terry Straub, senior vice president of public policy and government affairs for U.S. Steel Corp. in Washington, D.C., and a member of the AAM's board. "We have merged management and the [United Steelworkers] union on public policy. This might be unique in the United States. I don't see any other industry doing this. In the last several years, you have seen two parties that have historically been at odds with each other unite over public policy, legislation and politics."
Management and labor realize that "we're all in this together," Straub explains. "This has become an article of faith to engage these issues with the union at our side and us by their side because it dramatically expands our political reach and our political power."
Funding for the effort is coming from a unique agreement made between the management of the large integrated steel mills and United Steelworkers. The latest collective bargaining agreement sets aside 10 cents per ton of steel produced to fund the "Stand Up For Steel" campaign, but it allots 2.5 cents of this amount to the new Alliance for American Manufacturing.
The steel industry relies on the health of all steel consuming sectors of the economy and believes there is not an adequate advocacy effort in the country addressing their concerns. With three million manufacturing jobs lost in the past five years and continued hemorrhaging, the group feels there is a crisis in need of attention.
"We're trying to do something about it and to speak with a louder, more organized voice than American manufacturers have to date," says Straub. So far, that advocacy effort "has been scattered at best and organizations that you would think you would typically rely on to carry the American manufacturers' message -- we cite NAM as an example of this -- are so conflicted that they are doing one of two things: they are representing a very select set of interests in the manufacturing community, i.e. the manufacturers who have figured out how to game the system by moving their production overseas and sending their products back over here, or they are not advocating at all."
The Alliance for American Manufacturing has hired Scott Paul from the AFL-CIO to be its executive director. But Straub points out that Paul's appointment does not mean the group will be articulating a liberal agenda. AAM is hiring personnel with strong credentials in Republican and Democratic organizations and intends to be non-partisan. "We don't want to be dismissed on the Hill as another labor-left organization," says Straub.
The group will promote policies to strengthen manufacturing in the United States and focus on issues where there is common agreement among Republicans and Democrats. It hopes to capitalize on the undercurrent of economic insecurity that expressed itself in the last election and of the strong desire for the two parties to work together to get things done for the benefit of the country.
It is also looking to possibly broaden its funding sources to include other industries that are unionized. Future collective bargaining agreements that include a funding mechanism for the alliance are being pursued in the rubber, tire, oil and chemical industries. The intention is "to expand this to other companies going forward," says Straub. "The purpose of the AAM is to review the dire straits of American manufacturing, the pressures we're under from foreign competitors who trade unfairly and to focus the intellectual piece of the advocacy on this problem."
It is funding work at the Economic Policy Institute to research how Chinese trade practices are impacting the country on a state-by-state basis with regards to job loss and the diminishment of economic activity.
"American manufacturing built the middle class and American manufacturing is in crisis," Straub says. "A number of us don't believe in this notion that the next generation of the economy will be built on services, pushing paper around on Wall Street or selling computer services around town. It's the manufacturers who hire all of these other services -- banking, finance, computer. It's the American manufacturing base that puts value added in the world marketplace and gets a return."
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