Thanks to President Donald Trump’s 25 percent tariff on imported steel, American workers in an Illinois steel town are finally seeing relief after years of job-killing free trade.
For more than 100 years, Granite City has defined itself as a hardworking mill town, a place where young people eager to cement a solid financial future without a college degree have to look no further than the dirt and iron and fire of the local steel plant, which stretches over 2 square miles. The opportunity afforded by the plant came to a halt at the end of 2015, when the plant idled production, laying off 2,000 people.
But the first blast furnace now has been restarted and U.S. Steel is filling 800 jobs at the mill, a result of the steep tariffs that President Donald Trump announced on imported steel and aluminum earlier this year. The Trump administration has in recent months imposed tariffs on goods from Canada, Mexico and China and on Friday imposed tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese imports. That country responded by levying tariffs of its own on American-made goods, Chicago Tribune reported.
A Chicago Tribune report by Samantha Bomkamp reveals how Granite City, Illinois, is seeing a renewed steel industry after Trump’s tariffs on steel imports were implemented.
In 2015, the Illinois steel town saw 2,000 layoffs of American steel workers from the city’s local steel plant. Now, because of Trump’s tariffs on steel, the Granite City steel plant is rehiring 800 steel workers—about half of which will be those who were laid off in 2015 and the other half will be new hires.
Local business owners told the Chicago Tribune that they’re happy to see the steel jobs reopening in their town, as they say, the layoffs in 2015 hit their businesses as well:
The restart is causing an influx of customers at Park Grill, which is adjacent to the plant and was hit hard after the 2015 layoffs. Some steelworkers eat multiple meals a day at the grill. Railroad workers, truck drivers and others who have jobs supporting the plant also stop in or place orders for burgers and barbecue sandwiches. [Emphasis added]
“I’m hoping that everything goes back to where it was, and I think it will,” Park Grill owner Mike DeBruce said. “I think it’s going to be stronger and better.” [Emphasis added]
“These are things that should have been implemented a long time ago, and it would have never got this far,” he said of the tariffs. “They seem like they’re drastic changes. But something has to be done. So whether you like it or you don’t like it, it’s one of those things that for us, right now, is working.” [Emphasis added]
Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports have been welcomed by American workers and steel workers who say their jobs need to be protected from foreign competition.
In the latest Harvard/Harris Poll, 83 percent of Republican voters say they support tariffs on imported products like automobiles and electronics. Additionally, 81 percent of conservatives said they too supported tariffs, along with 61 percent of Americans living in rural communities.
Meanwhile, the Washington, DC, beltway, Chamber of Commerce, and Republican establishment has fought against Trump’s “America First” trade policies. The Chamber of Commerce announced last week that they would launch a nationwide campaign against Trump’s tariffs, despite their popularity.
Since 2001, free trade with China has cost millions of Americans their jobs. Between 2001 and 2015, about 3.4 million U.S. jobs were lost due to the country’s trade deficit with China, as Breitbart News reported.
Of the 3.4 million U.S. jobs lost in that time period, about 2.6 million were lost in the crippled manufacturing industry, making up about three-fourths of the loss of jobs from the U.S.-Chinese trade deficit.
With free trade, foreign markets have been readily opened to multinational corporations, allowing them to offshore American jobs while easily exporting their products back into the U.S.
The Rust Belt has been one of the hardest regions hit because of U.S. free trade with Mexico. In total, about 700,000 U.S. workers have been displaced, including:
- 14,500 American workers displaced in Wisconsin
- 43,600 American workers displaced in Michigan
- 2,600 American workers displaced in West Virginia
- 26,300 American workers displaced in Pennsylvania
- 34,900 American workers displaced in Ohio
- 34,300 American workers displaced in New York
- 6,500 American workers displaced in Iowa
- 24,400 American workers displaced in Indiana
- 34,700 American workers displaced in Illinois
Meanwhile, since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect in the 1990s, at least one million net U.S. jobs have been lost because of the free trade deal. Between 2000 and 2014, there have been about five million manufacturing jobs lost across the country as trade deficits continue soaring.
One former steel town in West Virginia lost 94 percent of its steel jobs because of NAFTA, with nearly 10,000 workers in the town being displaced from the steel industry.