CHICAGO United Steelworkers union leaders and top staffers from the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), along with steel bridge fabricators, met last week with public transportation authorities in New York to urge sourcing of American-made steel and domestic construction products in upcoming infrastructure projects.
USW International president Leo W. Gerard and New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) chairman and chief executive officer Thomas F. Prendergast had previously exchanged letters on the issue of offshore steel used in the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge reconstruction project (amm.com, June 21).
"We were at wits end with the contract awarded earlier this year to a state-owned Chinese steelmaker and their fabricators for upper deck replacement of the bridge that bypassed American workers," Gerard stated. "So we welcomed a face-to-face agenda on what to do about it."
The governors office set up the meeting, with the union represented by Tom Conway, USW international vice president from Pittsburgh, and John Shinn, director of USW District 4 in New York, the union said. Prendergast, state deputy secretary Karen Rae and Pat Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, also attended.
"They were forthcoming with us," Conway told AMM Sept. 24. "Together, we developed a list of projects and specific steel needs."
The USW and AAM "left with a good sense of (the states) infrastructure needs in the future and what the steel needs would be on those projects," he said, although he couldnt disclose which projects might be up for bid.
Conway is pleased with the dialogue, but "actions speak louder than words. Well need to see better results when MTA makes future project sourcing decisions," he said.
"Supporting a domestic supply chain of American workers ... may require changes in the procurement process," Shinn added.
MTA officials said they would be interested in reevaluating and strengthening the Buy America steel preference it uses, which hasnt changed since its adoption in 1983.
There was also broad agreement at the meeting that the "unreasonable agency cost waiver," which is available when domestic steel costs 6 percent more than foreign material, needs to be increased, USW said.
"This would (help to) level the playing field for the U.S. industry and workers in their competition with foreign state-owned and subsidized enterprises," Conway said.
While also pleased that talks have begun, AAM president Scott Paul said that "after a major outsourcing event like the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, it is natural that U.S. manufacturers and workers remain skeptical that this wont be repeated in the future."