Cite Port Authority of New York & New Jersey’s Decision to Buy Italian Steel,
Bypassing NJ Fabricator & Workers
Trenton – New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech today teamed with Senate President Steve Sweeney, manufacturers and out-of-work steelworkers to call for passage of a bipartisan 5-bill package of “Made in America” legislation he is sponsoring to ensure that taxpayer and toll-payer dollars are used to support American businesses and not shipped overseas.
The bills were released today by the Senate Budget Committee.
The bills were made necessary by the decision from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to award the contract for structural steel for the Bayonne Bridge-raising project to an Italian firm, Cimolai. With that decision, the Port Authority bypassed competitive bids from two South Plainfield companies – Harris Steel and MRP, structural steel fabricators that would have used American-produced steel – located just 45 minutes from bridge.
“We should be taking every measure possible to help jumpstart the economy, and requiring the purchase of U.S.A. made goods is just a common sense step,” said Sweeney. “President Obama has made tremendous strides in getting the country out of the economic mess he inherited. But, we still have ground to gain and can always do what is needed to ensure our family and friends have jobs.”
“When we buy American, we protect American jobs and invest in the American economy, from big manufacturers to mom-and-pop stores where workers shop,” said Wowkanech. “Sending taxpayer money to another country for products we make right here at home, and practically within view of the jobsite, is an insult to hard-working men and women everywhere. Our tax and toll dollars should be kept here at home, not sent overseas. We need to pass these bills to ensure a better future for our workers and a better economy for all residents.”
Senator Kevin J. O’Toole also signed on to the measures.
The first bill in the package (S-1811) would require vendors contracting with state agencies, including state colleges, to purchase manufactured goods in the United States to fulfill their contracts; it would also require businesses that contract with the state or that receive economic development assistance to disclose job outsourcing information. The other four measures would put that same purchasing requirement on the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission (S-2045), the Delaware River Bay Authority (S-2048), the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (S-2061) and the Delaware River Port Authority (S-2062).
“American workers produce the highest-quality, safest products in the world,” said United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo Gerard. “American steelmakers and steelworkers have the drive, the know-how, and more than enough capacity to supply these projects with the best steel in the world made at the safest and most environmentally-responsible plants in the world. In a time when it seems that Americans cannot agree on anything, one thing they do agree on is that they want their infrastructure built with American materials.”
“Instead of sending our hard-earned tax and toll dollars overseas to purchase foreign-made manufactured goods, we should reinvest those tax dollars into our local and national economy, especially when cost-competitive, quality American-made goods are available,” said Brian Lombardozzi, Vice President of State Governmental Affairs at the Alliance for American Manufacturing. “Doing so promotes growth, expands the tax base, and, by hiring workers, lowers the burden on social safety net programs. We should reward American companies and their workers who meet stringent U.S. standards for clean air, clean water, and safe workplaces. Our companies are often subjected to unfairly traded, subsidized imports from companies held to much lower standards. When we bypass American manufacturers for goods made elsewhere, we are rewarding those companies that have moved their operations, investment dollars, and jobs to foreign countries.”
The Port Authority’s decision has had a direct impact on the state’s workforce, with hundreds of steelworkers out of work because of the decision to purchase Italian steel. MRP has had to lay off 25 workers, and Harris Steel currently is shut down.
“The Port Authority had a chance to create and protect jobs in its own backyard, but instead is farming those jobs out, putting American-owned and operated businesses in danger of collapse,” said David Floyd, president of MRP. “We know that our American-made steel is better than what the Port Authority is spending the public’s money on, and the costs are much more than dollars and cents in a contract. At issue is the future of American manufacturing, and our ability to remain competitive in a global marketplace while providing needed jobs in our community. Our state, our businesses and our workers all deserve better.”
“New Jersey must put the workers who live here, pay taxes here, and are raising their families here first when making these decisions,” said Gregorio Leon, a union steelworker with MRP. “We live right in the Port Authority’s backyard. Thanks to the Port Authority’s decision to ship our work overseas, my coworkers and I don’t know where our next paycheck will come from or when. Their decision is a slap in the face of every hardworking American who has poured their pride into rebuilding our economy.”
The measures pertaining to the bi-state agencies also would need to enacted by officials in Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania, respectively, to become effective.