WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – Senator Rob Portman stopped by Wheatland Tube in Warren Wednesday to tour the facility and talk with leadership and employees about legislation that he says is already paying returns for Ohio steelworkers.
“I wanted to come today to help them by getting information, getting testimony directly from some of the workers, talk about…the effect of what’s happening in the marketplace right now so that we can win this trade case,” he said.
Employees were happy to host Portman, saying that the work he is doing in Washington is giving them a fighting chance.
“The USW workers here are some of the most productive and efficient workers in the world,” Portman said.
He donned a hard hat while walking through Wheatland Tube, speaking with the people most affected by what he calls “unfair trade practices.”
“They aren’t playing on a level playing field right now because foreign imports are coming in that are subsidized, or they’re dumped, meaning they’re sold even below their cost. That’s not fair.”
Maintenance foreman Mike Mack said it directly affects Wheatland Tube workers’ jobs.
“I mean, if everybody’s able to buy a cheaper product, then it outprices us and we’re unable to sell competitively.”
USW Local 9306 President Jeff Winters said there are still about 30 people who will probably never get their jobs back.
“They’ll never be able to come back to this facility at this point in time because of the change in the business, and that’s sad.”
Portman is proud of the Leveling the Playing Field and ENFORCE acts that he says are already helping Ohio’s steelworkers. Wheatland Tube has already put one of them to use.
“Under the new ENFORCE law, they’re one of the first companies to actually file a complaint with customs and border protection who are now, under that law, required to do an investigation,” Portman said. “I’m pleased to say they’ve heard back and…the investigation is ongoing.”
Winters is hopeful they will eventually be able to rehire those laid-off employees.
“With what they’re trying to do now…with the Senate and these Trade Commission laws and stuff, and put a little more things on these countries that are…importing, I’m hoping that maybe we’ll get those 30 guys back someday,” he said.
Portman says they should hear about the results of that investigation by the end of November.