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 US steel industry – now he worries President Trump’s tariffs on imports of the metal will cost him his job.
“I voted for Trump, I was hoping he would help the steel industry, and all the industries in the country,” he said. “But this right now don’t look very good.”
The county voted for then-Republican candidate Trump by more than 24 points in the 2016 US 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 US 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.
US steel companies such as US Steel and AK Steel Holding Corp – seen as winners thanks to the president’s actions – have lauded Trump’s tariff on imported steel.
US 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.
But Lang is one of around 780 workers at the Novolipetsk Steel PAO (NLMK). NLMK’s US 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, Deere & Co, Harley Davidson and Home Depot.
Bob Miller, Chief Executive Officer of NLMK’s US unit, said if his company’s customers refuse to accept a 25% 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 US 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.
Trump has stood by the tariffs, despite resistance from his fellow Republicans and other countries, which have vowed to respond with levies of their own.
On Thursday, Trump pressed ahead with the imposition of 25% tariffs on steel imports and 10% for aluminum.