Steelworkers, Cliffs CEO blast Trump's use of Chinese steel in casinos
Reaction was quick and fierce Tuesday to published reports that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump used cheaper Chinese steel rather than steel made in the U.S. to build recent casinos and hotels.
Officials of the United Steelworkers of America, whose members work in Minnesota taconite iron ore mines and in steelmaking mills across the U.S., said the news shows Trump has been dishonest about his wishes to rebuild American manufacturing that has drifted to China in recent decades.
"The hypocrisy is kind of staggering,'' said Brian Zarn, president of USW Local 6860 that represents workers at United Taconite in Eveleth and Forbes.
The Newsweek investigation reported Monday that in at least two of Trump's last three construction projects, Trump opted to purchase his steel and aluminum from Chinese manufacturers rather than United States corporations.
"The USW, though not surprised by Trump's actions, is furious over his efforts to undercut key American manufacturing jobs in the construction of his buildings he so often brags about," USW President Leo W. Gerard said. "The investigation from Newsweek released Monday is a shocking expose on Trump's plan to not only buy his steel and aluminum from the Chinese, but to use shell companies and corporate black holes to try and hide his greed even as he was planning to run for president."
Both domestic steel industry officials and their Steelworker employees have claimed that U.S. aluminium and steel industries "are in a crisis" as U.S. manufacturing is being undermined by illegally subsidized and unfairly traded foreign production, often from China.
"We've got 12,000 steelworkers at steel mills out of work and another 10,000 at aluminium mills and he's buying Chinese steel through shell companies. That's not making America great again. That's killing our jobs,'' said John Rebrovich, assistant to the director of USW District 11 in Minnesota.
The U.S. government has taken action against steel sold from several nations, imposing large tariffs on specific types of steel products, but domestic steel production has been slow to respond.
The criticism of Trump wasn't limited to union workers. Lourenco Goncalves, president and CEO of Cleveland-based Cliffs Natural Resources, said Trump was only looking out for himself. Goncalves' company is the largest supplier of U.S.-mined iron ore to the U.S.-based steel industry and was hard hit by the slowdown in U.S. steel production.
Goncalves said Trump may not have been aware of what he was doing because he is "so focused on himself and not the common good'' of society.
"It's just another example of who he is. He works for Donald Trump, not the common good,'' Goncalves said. "I'm a Republican, but I just can't support a guy like Donald Trump."
While the steel may have been illegally dumped by Chinese companies and illegally subsidized by the Chinese government, under trade laws, Newsweek said Trump violated no U.S. laws by buying the foreign products.
Newsweek reported that, in other instances, he abandoned steel altogether, instead choosing the far less expensive option of buying concrete from various companies, including some linked to the Luchese and Genovese crime families.
Trump has made it a campaign pledge to stop unfair Chinese imports that have cost American jobs. But previous reports found that most of the clothes sold under Trump's name are made in foreign countries.
Now, the Newsweek report suggests that Trump raised his profits by millions of dollars by buying the cheaper Chinese steel over steel made by union employees in the U.S. Newsweek said that, of Trump's last three construction projects, the first to use Chinese steel was Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, which opened in 2008. That the manufacturer is from China is not immediately evident; this fact is hidden within a chain of various corporate entities, including holding companies registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Newsweek said Trump spokespeople did not respond to their requests for comment on their findings.