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No clear signals on trade groups’ standing on immigration reform

Keywords: Tags  immigration reform, legislation, trade groups, AISI, SMA, MSCI, PMA, Aluminum Association ISRI

CHICAGO — As the House and Senate mull proposals for immigration reform, some trade groups have evinced general support for reform while others are holding back as they wait to see what emerges.

The Rolling Meadows, Ill.-based Metals Service Center Institute "supports the broad concept of immigration reform to help our members provide for their employment needs," MSCI vice president of finance and government affairs Jonathan Kalkwarf said. "Service centers require a skilled work force to compete in the global marketplace and must be able to attract and invest in the most motivated and innovative workers." But until actual proposals are in place, "we have not taken a formal position on any
proposed policy."

"Comprehensive immigration reform is good for manufacturers, good for the economy and good for the fabric of America," Washington-based National Association of Manufacturers president and chief executive officer Jay Timmons said in a statement earlier this year. "We are bogged down by a broken system that prevents manufacturers from hiring the best people and keeps millions of people living on the edges of society."

"While we are still analyzing the potential impacts of immigration reform, (our) members are currently affected by a skills gap in manufacturing," said Adam Parr, vice president of policy and communications at the Steel Manufacturers Association, Washington. "Continued innovations in technology have changed the educational and skill requirements needed to work in a steel mill, and there is a shortage of qualified, skilled and competent employees in trade positions. The skills gap contributes to the hiring challenges facing the industry, leaving many job openings unfilled."

"Our priority issues are trade, tax, energy, environment/regulation, infrastructure, and work force policy and safety," a spokeswoman for the Washington-based American Iron and Steel Institute told AMM, noting that the group doesn’t have a policy statement on immigration.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Washington, also doesn’t have a stated policy on the subject, president Robin K. Wiener said.

Immigration reform is "not something we’ve taken a position on," a spokesman for the Aluminum Association, Arlington, Va., told AMM. "We don’t think it’s an issue that will have a unique impact on our industry."

It’s too early for leaders at the Independence, Ohio-based Precision Metalforming Association to assess "whether we would agree or disagree with any of the current proposals floating in D.C.," president William Gaskin said.

A spokesman for the Alliance for American Manufacturing, Washington, which represents metal producers and labor, declined to comment.

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), Washington, is said to be talking to members of Congress.

AFL-CIO president Richard L. Trumka supports reforms. Employers have "access to a hard-working, insecure and underpaid pool of workers. If those workers make any noise at all about forming a union on the job, employers are only too happy to prove that deportation is only a phone call away," he said last month at an immigration campaign event in Chicago.

Douglas R. Oberhelman, chairman and chief executive officer of Peoria, Ill.-based heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar Inc., recently called for immigration reform in a speech to the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition in Chicago. He noted that the United States needs an immigration policy that will help it stay globally competitive (, April 4).

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