White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, the President’s top advisor, will report back to President Obama following a December 22nd meeting at Range Community & Technical College in Virginia with affected workers, mining executives, business leaders and local elected officials.
[WASHINGTON, DC] - White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, the President’s top advisor, will be in Virginia, MN at Range Community & Technical College on Tuesday, December 22nd to discuss the Iron Range layoffs and the national steel crisis directly with affected workers, mining executives, business leaders and local elected officials. Today, Governor Mark Dayton, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, and Congressman Rick Nolan announced the plans to host McDonough on the Iron Range. Further details regarding the exact time and agenda will be forthcoming.
The announcement follows personal meetings and discussions among the four – and with McDonough – during which they emphasized the gravity of the situation on the Iron Range, where nearly 2,000 miners have lost their jobs in the worst iron mining and steel industry downturn in decades. They further pointed out that the crisis threatening the industries threatens the survival of the U.S. mining and steel industries – and with it the nation’s economic and natural security. Iron Range legislators also joined the governor and the congressional delegation in sending a letter directly to President Obama urging a meeting to address the crisis.
“Minnesota steelworkers urgently need help from the Administration in Washington,” said Governor Mark Dayton. “I thank President Obama for sending his Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough, to help us with the very serious economic problems facing Minnesotans on the Iron Range. We need the administration to do everything possible to fight back against the illegal dumping of foreign steel.”
“For generations, Minnesota steel workers have met the highest standards of excellence in steel production. On a level playing field they can compete with any country in the world,” Klobuchar said. “I look forward to the opportunity for Denis to hear directly from Iron Range workers and discuss concrete steps to crack down on foreign steel dumping, which has undercut our domestic industry.”
“Minnesota’s iron ore and steel workers can compete with anybody in the world on a level playing field,” said Sen. Franken. “But the industry has been shaken by foreign competitors who are flooding American markets with illegally dumped steel. The Northland is struggling, and we need action. That’s why we called on President Obama and his Administration to help us remedy this problem. I’m pleased they are paying attention, and that the President has tasked his Chief of Staff to head to the Iron Range. We need to do everything we can to fight for our workers and producers, and this is an important step.”
“This meeting is a critical step forward in our fight to get the Iron Range back to work,” Congressman Rick Nolan said. “I’m gratified that the President has given his personal attention to the crisis by sending his most trusted and most senior advisor to the Range to hear directly from those affected. This year alone, over 2,000 steelworkers in Minnesota have lost their jobs as a result of foreign producers dumping low-cost subsidized steel into our country – and unless constructive action is taken now, miners and steelworkers in Minnesota and across the country will soon face even more layoffs.”
Governor Dayton spoke personally with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, urging President Obama to take executive action to stop illegal steel dumping, which is threatening Minnesota's steel industry. The Governor has worked closely with Minnesota's Congressional Delegation over the course of the last year to petition the federal government, including the U.S. International Trade Commission, U.S. Department of Commerce, and U.S. Department of Labor, to crack down on illegal steel dumping practices and to ensure impacted steelworkers receive Trade Adjustment Assistance benefits. Additionally, the Governor has called on the State Legislature to meet in special session to extend unemployment benefits for laid off steelworkers on Minnesota's Iron Range. He and Lt. Governor Tina Smith have visited the Iron Range numerous times to meet with and extend state services to impacted steelworkers, and to rally against illegal steel dumping.
Senator Klobuchar has spoken directly with McDonough multiple times urging him to bring the concerns of Iron Rangers directly to the President. She is a leader in efforts to fight foreign dumping and ensure a level playing field for U.S. steel workers and producers. Following consistent pressure from Klobuchar last year, the International Trade Commission voted to impose penalties on Mexican, Turkish, and Korean companies dumping steel in the U.S. In addition, she recently led a letter along with Senator Al Franken and Representative Rick Nolan to successfully urge the U.S. Department of Labor to expedite approval of the three Trade Adjustment Assistance petitions submitted by workers from the affected mining operations. Last month, Klobuchar and Franken introduced legislation to crack down on illegal steel dumping by strengthening trade enforcement.
Senator Franken has long fought to ensure fair trade practices and protect Minnesota workers and businesses. He’s worked hard to help limit the damage being done to the American steel and iron ore industry by unfairly priced foreign steel. He’s pressed the U.S. International Trade Commission and the Department of Commerce to address the problem and has helped introduce legislation to bolster our trade protections. Earlier this month, Sen. Franken helped personally call on President Obama to take administrative action to help fix the steel dumping problem.
After several direct meetings between Congressman Nolan and McDonough regarding the effect the steel crisis is having on Minnesota’s Iron Range, McDonough brought the issue directly to the attention of President Obama the next morning. The President then made the decision to send McDonough to the heart of the layoffs on the Iron Range. Nolan also introduced the Support Our Steelworkers Act in November to immediately impose a moratorium on the importation of foreign steel and steel products into the United States for five years. He has called on President Obama to use his authority under Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974 to impose high tariffs on foreign steel that would mark the equivalent of a moratorium; and he has consistently urged the Administration to toughen current trade enforcement policies.
The flood of foreign steel has threatened the survival of the domestic iron ore and steel industry and put thousands of Americans out of work. Steel imports are 31% of the market at a time when domestic steel mills are only operating at 70.5% of capacity. This problem is expected to only get worse due to the global steel overcapacity of 700 million metric tons. Much of the steel being dumped into the U.S. is illegally state-subsidized, or benefits from unfair practices such as currency manipulation. The International Trade Commission has found a determination of illegal steel dumping in 157 cases. In fact, steel products make up 46% of the trade enforcement orders the Department of Commerce administers under U.S. trade laws. Yet the flood of illegal steel continues into the United States virtually unabated.