Over the past two weeks, I was honored to join the employees at United Alloy and Seneca Foods in Janesville, and Bemis Company in Oshkosh.
While touring their facilities, I asked them about the steel and aluminum tariffs recently announced by the President. They said it would disrupt the market and many of their customers were concerned about the negative impact.
We've heard similar things from other great Wisconsin employers such as MillerCoors, Harley-Davidson, and Milwaukee Tool.
In addition to overall concerns about the market, employers here in Wisconsin face some very specific problems. Bemis Company, based in Neenah, provides a great example as to why the tariffs on aluminum will cost American jobs instead of protecting them. Bemis employs about 9,000 people in America. Of that, about 5,000 are in Wisconsin, with others in places such as Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Bemis uses ultra-thin foil of gauges less than 0.0003 inches thick for things such as ketchup packets, cream cheese packaging, powdered food and beverages, and medical device packages. Only one producer of this converter foil is in America. The total output of that entire company cannot meet Bemis’ current requirements, let alone those of similar companies throughout Wisconsin and across America. Plus, that company is not able to produce the ultra-thin foil gauges needed for much of Bemis’ and other companies' core work.
So, if these tariffs go into place, it will not only cause major disruption in the market and drive prices up, it will likely cause layoffs and plant closures with jobs and operations shifting to other countries. For example, a company in Wisconsin would likely look at its costs and realize it would be easier to close operations here and move the equipment to Canada, where no tariff is on the ultra-thin foil. Then it could make products that will not face a tariff coming into the American market.
Bemis officials met with me last June to explain their specific concerns. Other Wisconsin employers have similar issues.
Last summer, I took their concerns to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. He understood the issue and assured me they would try to address these very real concerns. Unfortunately, the plan announced recently does not do that.
The goal of the Trump administration, I believe, is to protect American workers. Unfortunately, the practical application here of the tariff on steel and aluminum would lead to jobs being lost in Wisconsin and moved, not to other states, but to other countries.
That is why I respectfully ask the president of the United States to reconsider this policy.