FARRELL, Penn. (Reuters) - Mick Lang has been a steelworker for nearly 40 years and voted for businessman Donald Trump in the hopes he would bring about a renaissance for the long-suffering U.S. steel industry - now he worries President Trump’s tariffs on imports of the metal will cost him his job.
“This is not what I voted for. I voted for Trump because I thought he’d straighten things out, not do something like this,” said Lang, 59, a third-generation steelworker, whose son also works at the same steel mill in Farrell in western Pennsylvania’s Mercer County.
The county voted for then-Republican candidate Trump by more than 24 points in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Some Republican strategists said Trump’s tariffs appeared partly to be timed to sway voters in Pennsylvania steel country, where a special election is being held for a U.S. House of Representatives seat next Tuesday.
Trump is scheduled to visit Moon Township about 60 miles southwest of Farrell on Saturday to support the Republican candidate and he is expected to be warmly received in an area he also won handily in 2016. U.S. steel companies such as U.S. Steel Corp (X.N) and AK Steel Holding Corp (AKS.N) - seen as winners thanks to the president’s actions - have lauded Trump’s tariff on imported steel.
U.S. Steel said it would restart one of two idled blast furnaces at an Illinois steel plant, creating up to 500 jobs.
America is the world's largest steel importer, buying about 35 million tons in 2017. GRAPHIC: tmsnrt.rs/2oPeo1z
But Lang is one of around 780 workers at the Novolipetsk Steel PAO (NLMK) (NLMK.MM) mill, NLMK’s U.S. subsidiary which imports around 2 million tons of steel slabs annually from its Russian parent company. The slabs that the mill rolls into sheets for customers including Caterpillar Inc (CAT.N), Deere & Co (DE.N) Harley Davidson Inc (HOG.N) and Home Depot Inc (HD.N), are almost impossible to acquire from U.S. steel producers.
Bob Miller, Chief Executive Officer of NLMK’s U.S. unit, said if his company’s customers refuse to accept a 25 percent price hike as a result of the tariffs, nearly 1,200 workers could eventually lose their jobs - and the ones in Farrell would be the first to go when supplies of imported slabs run out.
The U.S. steel industry employed about 147,000 people in 2015, according to the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic analysis. Manufacturers that need steel employ about 6.5 million people each year and the construction industry 6.3 million. GRAPHIC: tmsnrt.rs/2Fc94hU
Miller said tariffs will also force NLMK to shelve planned $600 million investments in plants in Pennsylvania and Indiana, around $400 million of which was earmarked for