MARION - A crowd of Nucor Steel Marion employees cheered and clapped as John Ferriola, the CEO of their company, pledged support to Sen. Sherrod Brown during a presentation honoring the U.S. legislator for his "leadership and support on behalf of Ohio's 687,000 manufacturing employees and their families."
[by John Jarvis | October 24,2015 | The Marion Star]
Ferriola, also Nucor's president and chairman, presented Brown, D-Ohio, with the company's "Man of Steel" award at the 20-minute ceremony on a brisk Friday morning under a tent in Nucor Steel Marion's parking lot following a tour of the manufacturing plant. Nucor Steel Marion, a steel mini-mill, employs 275 workers and manufactures rebar and specialty bar steel products used in the highway, construction and agricultural industries.
"Today, we especially want to honor Sen. Brown for his leadership on the Level the Playing Field Act," Ferriola said. "Not only did Sen. Brown write this legislation to strengthen our trade laws, but he worked tirelessly for over a year to build a bipartisanship consensus need to ensure that it was signed into law as part of the Trade Promotion Authority.
The Trade Promotion Authority is a legislative tool used to advance trade negotiations and enable the U.S. to expand its competitive market opportunities and give U.S. businesses the ability to succeed in the global market.
In accepting the award, Brown, a U.S. senator since 2007 and congressman from 1993 through 2007, praised Ferriola and Nucor for their assistance with his efforts to gain bipartisan support for the Level the Playing Field measure.
"It started as a Democratic initiative," he said. "We knew we needed to get the Republicans to the table. John helped in that, the American Institute of Iron and Steel helped, many of you here at Nucor helped."
The Level the Playing Field Act, introduced by Brown in March and co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, helps U.S. companies such as the steel industry compete against unfair trade practices, Ferriola said.
"This legislation is extremely important," he said. "It gives American manufacturers the tools we need to fight back against unfairly traded, illegally traded products coming into the United States. I'm here to tell you this was a very big win for our industry and for manufacturing in the United States."
As some in the audience of primarily Nucor workers nodded, Ferriola recounted his discussions with Brown about the legislation.
"I called you after you helped make this into law with your vote, and I promised at that time that our team would remember just how hard you worked to get this through and how hard you worked for them and their families," he said. "I promised you that our team would remember that come 2018, and in 2018 we would work just as hard for you as you did for us to ensure that in 2018 for the first time you carry Marion County. ... And I'm serious about that. I don't give my word easily. I'm counting on all our teammates here to work with your families and your neighbors to make sure that that happens. Don't forget what he's done for us. This is a very, very big win."
Brown agreed with Ferriola's assessment that legislators must do more to enable U.S. manufacturers to fairly compete in a global marketplace.
"We've got to step up trade enforcement, and part of the problem is Congress has cut the funding for the budget of trade enforcement in the Department of Commerce. And every time China cheats, we lose."
Having observed that "China has half the steel-making capacity in the world," he said: "When we bring a trade action when China cheats or South Korea cheats or Japan cheats or any number of countries cheat on trade, we bring a trade action against them. It often takes more than a year as it works its way through, and during that year, they continue to cheat and continue to steal market share and continue to steal jobs, and that's why we've got to be quicker, we've got to be more aggressive, and we've got to really do trade enforcement right."
Between 2000 and 2010, the U.S. lost 5 million manufacturing jobs and 60,000 plants closed, he said.
"We've got to enforce trade laws because steel is really the foundation of so much of our manufacturing."