On eve of steel tariff announcement, local Steelworkers rallied to support Brendan Kelly for Congress

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HE UNDERSTANDS TRADE, United Steelworkers District 7 Director Mike Millsap (left) said in endorsing Brendan Kelly (right) for Illinois’ 12th Congressional District. – Labor Tribune photo

By CARL GREEN

Illinois Correspondent

Granite City, IL – President Trump’s announcement that he would impose tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum came on the heels of a bravura rally by the United Steelworkers on March 3 to endorse St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the Illinois 12th Congressional District, which includes Granite City.

USW District 7 Director Mike Millsap said trade was a big part of why the union is supporting Kelly.

Millsap recalled his first meeting with the incumbent, Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro), in which he asked for Bost’s position on the proposed “fast track” trade legislation that would have hurt American workers.

“You won’t be surprised to know that he didn’t know anything about trade,” Millsap said. “He couldn’t tell me what fast track was until he investigated it.”

Later Bost voted for it, forever ruining his reputation as far as Millsap was concerned. “I told him that at every election going forward, the United Steelworkers would come out against him,” Millsap said. “He’s not our friend, he does not understand trade, he’s not voting with us most of the time on trade, nor do I think he will in the future.”

IT’S ABOUT FAIRNESS

Kelly, the leading Democratic primary contender, made a better impression on Millsap.

“He understood trade,” Millsap said. “I think he knew more about it than I did. If I asked him today about 232 (the section of trade law that allows tariffs to protect the nation’s ability to defend itself), there wouldn’t be a question about where he would be on this.”

Speaking at the rally, Kelly said the oft-stated fears of a trade war ignore the fact that the steel industry is merely seeking a level playing field for U.S. products.

“There’s not a single person here who is against trade,” he said. “Everybody understands why that is important. But that’s not what this is about for steelworkers. They’re not looking for some kind of trade war, they’re not looking to be hurtful to anybody else in the world. They simply want to be treated fairly.”

To his credit, Bost said he supports the tariff plan and worked to help bring it about.

“Through bipartisan legislation, we empowered the Department of Commerce to help American companies and workers respond rapidly to illegally traded imports, but more needed to be done,” Bost said. “That’s why I helped advance efforts for the Section 232 investigation and took the case of southern Illinois’ steelworkers directly to President Trump as he was deliberating its finding and recommendations.”

On this issue, Local 1899 President Dan Simmons said, Trump is finally doing what he said he would do, at the risk of losing support from his own party.

“He actually has split his party,” Simmons said. “He got this one thing right, and we’re with him on it.”

But, Simmons added, “I’m sure we’ll disagree on others down the road.”

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