Last week, during remarks at the Shell Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex in
Monaca, Pennsylvania, Donald Trump touted all he’s purportedly done for the steel industry.
The president’s cadence was characteristically abrasive. He has a tendency to insult the audience even when he’s trying to curry favor.
“Pennsylvania Steel raised the skyscrapers that built our cities. And, by the way, steel — steel was dead. Your business was dead. Okay?”, Trump insisted, before hilariously suggesting that he wasn’t trying “to be overly crude”.
He wasn’t done.
“Your business was dead”, the president pressed. Then, he explained how he ushered in a veritable renaissance. To wit, from the official transcript:
And I put a little thing called ‘a 25 percent tariff’ on all of the dumped steel all over the country, And now your business is thriving. Probably there’s few businesses that have gone proportionately up like steel and aluminum.
Fast forward a week and US Steel is laying off hundreds of workers in Michigan.
That’s according to a filing with the state, embedded in full below.
This comes less than two months after the company tipped plans to idle a pair of blast furnaces at its Gary Works and Great Lakes facilities. The problem: Falling demand and lower steel prices.
Four-dozen full- and part-time workers were laid off in July and early August. The upcoming action will affect “fewer than 200” workers, the filing says.
In a June interview with Bloomberg, Nucor CEO John Ferriola warned that Trump’s policies had likely exacerbated the industry’s woes.
“Exuberance over the levies dramatically boosted US output just as the global economy was cooling, undercutting demand”, Bloomberg wrote in July. “That dropped prices, creating a stark divide between companies like Nucor, which use cheaper-to-run electric-arc furnaces to recycle scrap into steel products, and those including US Steel with more costly legacy blast furnaces”.
Steel prices have plunged from the 2018 highs and shares of US Steel have been eviscerated, down more than 70% since the tariffs were put in place.
That, apparently, is what Trump meant when he told hundreds of union workers at Shell’s petrochemical plant a week ago that the steel industry is “thriving”.
Subsequent reporting would reveal that the workers who heard Trump’s speech in Beaver County last week were given the option of not showing up – but then, they wouldn’t have been paid.