The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, January 20, 2006

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

Bush: no limits on Chinese pipe
President George W. Bush "turned his back" on several thousand U.S. workers who make steel pipes when he refused Dec. 30 to place limits on Chinese-made steel pipe imports flooding the U.S. market.

Steel pipe products are used primarily in plumbing, fencing and other construction.

"Our pipe workers and their families were delivered a stunning blow by President Bush in his refusal to enforce America's trade laws following our government's own investigation that showed China's imports are unfairly surging into the U.S. market. It's clear that President Bush has told American workers that he's not on their side when it comes to advocating a message of fair trade with China," said United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo W. Gerard.

China's currency manipulation, export rebate programs and subsidies to its nation's steel pipe manufacturers, along with the lack of workers' rights and environmental regulations, enable China to export the pipe at prices below the cost of raw materials, according to USW and seven steel pipe manufacturers. Sheet Metal Workers union members also make steel pipe in the U.S.

In August, the USW and their employers filed what is called a Section 421 petition asking the Bush Administration to curb the Chinese pipe imports. Such a petition allows businesses or other groups harmed by imports from nations that engage in unfair trade practices to ask the federal government to limit imports of the products.

As Chinese imports have grown, U.S.-made pipe prices have fallen, threatening U.S. manufacturers and jobs. The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) projects the imports will grow by at least 60 percent this year.

The White House countered that reducing Chinese imports would increase costs for consumers. Bush also said the restrictions wouldn't work because imports from other countries would simply replace the Chinese imports.

"We will be raising our voices in the 2006 election to send the message that America's fair trade laws must be enforced," Gerard said.

No free lunch at Wal-Mart
(PAI) - An Oakland, California jury has told Wal-Mart that there's no such thing as a free lunch (hour).

In a Dec. 22 decision in Alameda County Superior Court, jurors ordered the world's largest retailer to pay 116,000 present and former workers $57 million in back wages they lost, plus $115 million in damages, because it refused to give them paid time for lunch, as California law requires. The workers toiled there from 2003-2005.

"The size of this verdict speaks loudly to the disdain Americans have for multi-billion dollar companies needlessly exploiting their workers," said Paul Blank, of WakeUp

The jurors decided Wal-Mart broke a 5-year-old state law that requires employers to give 30-minute unpaid lunch breaks to workers who work at least six hours a day. But if they missed lunch-as they often were forced to do-they were supposed to get a full hour's pay. They never got it. Wal-Mart claimed they had to ask for it, first, and didn't. Wal-Mart settled a similar suit in Colorado last year, paying workers $50 million