Manufacturing Matters

Congress and Administration Harming Manufacturing

My grandfather Harry Timmons left the family farm during the Great Depression to stand in line for six months until he got a job at the local paper manufacturing plant in Chillicothe, Ohio. For the next 35 years, he went in and out of those factory gates and hustled and worked his way into the middle class.

Earlier this month, America honored that heroism—of the ordinary working American who perseveres for his or her family and, by doing so, keeps a dream alive and our country exceptional. Whether that worker is building wire baskets in Maryland, creating high-tech aerospace components in California or producing lifesaving vaccines in New York, our heroes are still everywhere.

But Labor Day was an empty gesture when our leaders didn’t back up their effusive praise with deeds for the workers who sustain our way of life. Statements, tweets and Facebook status updates needed to be followed with decisive action to support working-class Americans and particularly the backbone of our economy: the more than 12 million men and women manufacturers.

Unfortunately, we’re not seeing the urgency to act or real signs that enough of our leaders understand that. How else can you explain a Congress that starts August recess without getting a long-term infrastructure deal done, which would not only put more people to work but also take care of our roads, bridges and transit systems that bolster global competitiveness? How else can you explain lawmakers leaving Washington without reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, which has contributed more than $1 billion to the U.S. Treasury in the past two years and is responsible for supporting about 164,000 jobs annually in the United States?

And it’s not just Congress making life harder. It’s also the Obama Administration.

Many labor groups agree—the Administration’s unworkable and unnecessary new ozone regulations would cost millions of workers across the country their livelihoods. For what? The current regulations, which many communities are still striving to meet, are improving air quality. Many manufacturing technologies and innovations have dramatically reduced ozone emissions in the past 10 years.

A cleaner environment and a strong economy with more jobs have become mutually exclusive goals for this Administration. 

Add the federal contractor blacklisting executive order, proposed overtime regulations and more to the list of failures that have calculable costs. What is impossible to calculate is the collective toll they take on our spirit to lead and to carry on that uniquely American optimism about the future.

The sun has already set on Labor Day, and Congress has returned to Washington. We expect lawmakers to return to work, just as the millions of men and women that they serve. We also expect the Administration to act in the best interests of American workers. Washington would do well to honor our workers—with real meaning—by addressing these problems now.

This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Member Focus.