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The Steelworkers Argument For Tariffs

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now we'll hear from one of the groups that supports the tariffs. We're joined now by Holly Hart. She's legislative director and assistant to the president of United Steelworkers.

Holly, thanks so much for talking with us.

HOLLY HART: Well, thank you for having me.

MARTIN: So why do the steelworkers support these tariffs on China and other countries?

HART: Everybody is complaining right now about we're in a trade war because of these tariffs, but steelworkers have been in a trade war for about three decades. And you only have to go to the industrial heartland of this country and see the effects.

In the 2000s, we had a terrible crisis in steel. We had about 50,000 steelworker jobs lost. A hundred thousand retirees lost their health care. Forty-five factories closed. These are plants where fathers and grandfathers worked, where communities were built around them. And they just - they sat padlocked and vacant.

And at the time, President Bush, in 2002, enacted tariffs on steel, and it was a temporary tariff. It lasted about three years. And the industry, during that time, was able to restructure. It was able to invest and was able to return to profitability.

MARTIN: Well, that makes sense, though. So I understand your argument. So the argument is that that dumping, mainly by China, has cost thousands of steelworker jobs and dozens of steel companies. But as you pointed out, the bulk of the damage was in the early 2000s. So what makes you so sure that this is the right remedy for right now?

HART: Because since the tariffs were enacted, we've seen about 6,300 jobs come back. I mean, those were people that were idled out of factories. And our economy is still doing quite well. Actually, we added 36,000 manufacturing jobs, some of them in even metal-consuming industries, just since this June. So I believe the tariffs - and we as a union believe the tariffs - need to be given a chance to succeed.

MARTIN: That's Holly Hart. She's legislative director and assistant to the president of United Steelworkers. She was kind enough to let us call her at home on this Saturday. Holly Hart, thanks so much for talking with us.

HART: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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