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IBB joins petition to restore U.S. shipbuilding capacity

The Boilermakers union joined with several other labor organizations in a coalition led by the United Steelworkers union in filing a Section 301 petition March 12, calling on the United States Trade Representative to initiate an investigation of Chinese commercial shipbuilding. The goal is to restore the United States’ shipbuilding capacity, ultimately safeguarding national security, providing good paying jobs and ensuring consistent access to needed goods.

The U.S. was once dominant in commercial shipbuilding, boasting nearly 30 major shipyards at one point. The nation’s standing began falling several decades ago and continues to shrink, now ranking 19th globally and accounting for just .15% of global commercial ship construction. The loss of shipyards and commercial ship construction work has translated over time to a loss of more than 70,000 shipyard jobs—which doesn’t account for the additional loss of secondary jobs the industry supports, said the USW.

Meanwhile, the People’s Republic of China enacted a comprehensive strategy over the past two decades to dominate global transportation and logistics networks, including employing “an array of non-market policies.”

“The PRC is using commercial shipbuilding to dominate the full spectrum of global trade, choking out all competitors,” USW International President David McCall said in an official press release. “If we do not act quickly, we will soon be dependent on China not only for the products their vessels bring into our ports but also for the ships themselves.”

The Boilermakers union, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO, joined with USW in filing the trade petition. USTR Katherine Tai has 45 days (beginning with the March 12 filing) to consider and determine if she will pursue an investigation of Chinese shipbuilding.

“As our nation takes great strides toward rebuilding infrastructure, manufacturing and critical supply chains, we also need our policymakers to turn their attention to shipbuilding,” said International President Warren Fairley. “It is vital for all of us in the U.S. labor movement—regardless of whether or not we work directly in shipbuilding—to implore all policymakers in our nation’s capital to support our fight to save the United States shipbuilding industry.”

The USW has created a website as a central rally point for information on the petition and to organize support for the petition. Boilermakers and their allies are encouraged to visit www.full-steam-ahead.org, sign on to increase pressure on the USTR to act and share the site with others.