Building Trades

Steelworkers Prez: MTA Making Excuses to Avoid Buying American

July 24, 2013
By Marc Bussanich

Leo Gerard, International President United Steelworkers

Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers

Washington, DC—Leo W. Gerard, international president of the United Steelworkers, said that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is misleading the public by claiming that toll collection, and not tax revenues, to finance repairs on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge exempts it from “Buy American” provisions to purchase American-made steel. Watch Video

“I don’t know where they get off thinking that a toll is not a tax. The toll is a tax; it’s being paid by the people who drive across it,” said Gerard.

Mr. Gerard wrote a letter to the MTA’s chairman, Tom Pendergast, urging the MTA to reconsider its decision to purchase Chinese, rather than American-made steel. He said the MTA hasn’t said yet whether they are reconsidering or their decision is final.

"What they have told us is that they are willing to meet with us and we’re going to try to arrange a meeting with them at the earliest possible date.”

Mr. Gerard said the MTA’s decision to purchase Chinese steel goes beyond New York’s borders. He blames the Chinese government for subsidizing Chinese companies that gives them an enormous advantage over companies that don’t receive subsidies from their respective governments.

“This isn’t just about the MTA, but the misconception that everything has to be made in China. The Chinese manipulate their currency; they’re not working on the same level as us. We shouldn’t let them win on the basis of cheating. They’re not playing by the same rules,” Gerard said.

The MTA says that no American company can make the high-tech steel based on the orthotropic design. But Gerard said that’s malarkey.

“There was lot of engineering design work already done at Leigh University. There are at least two or three fabricators that could fabricate the steel. And there are certainly American steel producers that could make it.”

Mr. Gerard believes that the MTA purposely designed the bid to make it difficult for American steel producers to meet the bid’s specifications and therefore farm it out to China.

“There were companies arranging the financing to get ready in case they won the project, but they never got the chance to bid because the subcontractor sourced the steel from China,” said Gerard.

Senator Charles Schumer, as with Mr. Gerard, wrote a letter to the MTA; he strongly argued against the MTA’s decision to use Chinese-made rather than American-made steel because it represents a race to the bottom for the worldwide steel industry because American and other countries’ steel industries can’t match Chinese prices.

Sen. Schumer was criticized by a July 20 New York Post editorial for pandering to “special-interest labor big shots” rather than advocating for all his constituents.

Mr. Gerard dismissed the editorial.

“It’s uninformed, insulting and undeserved. If there’s anyone that has stood for big shots, it’s them,” said Gerard.  

Follow Marc Bussanich on Twitter marc@laborpress.org

July 24, 2013

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