It was hard to focus on any one policy in Congress’s enormous, year-end funding effort, but one deserves more press than it got at the time. That’s the bipartisan legislation that will reduce harmful refrigerants—a major climate victory, and one that the NAM was instrumental in achieving, according to E&E News (subscription).
Good for climate: The legislation, which was co-sponsored by Republican Sen. John Kennedy (LA) and Democratic Sen. Tom Carper (DE), will help the U.S. avoid more greenhouse gas emissions every year than Germany produces in total, bringing the United States into alignment with a global deal called the Kigali Amendment. The Kigali Amendment seeks to phase down superheating pollutants like hydrofluorocarbons to prevent Earth’s temperatures from increasing by a half-degree Celsius by the end of the century.
Good for business: The deal to phase down HFCs will also benefit manufacturers in the United States who are producing greener alternatives to HFCs.
NAM’s efforts: When the legislation ran into roadblocks in the Senate, the NAM worked alongside members and the business community to educate lawmakers and move the process forward.
- “It took a lot of late-night phone calls,” NAM Vice President of Energy and Resources Policy Rachel Jones told E&E News. “I don’t think there’s any one person or organization that can or should claim credit. This really only worked because people were willing to build the bridge from both sides of the river.”
The results: The legislation, which was ultimately included in the year-end omnibus bill that Congress passed in December, will cut HFCs by 85% over 15 years, while providing exemptions for specialty applications without viable alternatives.
The word from the NAM: “You don’t accomplish big things alone,” Jones tells us. “House and Senate staffers did yeoman’s work behind the scenes to hammer out a deal. Sister trade associations like AHRI and the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy were smart to partner with the Natural Resources Defense Council from the start.”
“Key member companies, including Honeywell, Chemours, Rheem and Trane (whose CEO is the NAM’s chairman), worked tirelessly with both sides of the aisle to build support. They emphasized to policymakers that the phasedown in HFCs would lower the global temperature while also ensuring manufacturers in America maintain their global leadership.”
Cyberspace seems to get more dangerous every day. The latest scare comes from the likely Russian hack of tech company SolarWinds’ software, which affected several U.S. government agencies along with major corporations. But manufacturers can give themselves some peace of mind by investing proactively in security measures—such as cyber insurance.
One industry executive is very happy with his decision to buy cyber coverage from the NAM to protect his company. After its sister company was attacked in a cyber incident, Manitoba Corporation’s Partner and Vice President of Marketing Adam Shine shopped around for plans that would safeguard the family-run metal recycling business based in New York. After considering his options, Shine signed up with NAM Cyber Cover because it offered proactive protection in addition to coverage, tailored to manufacturers at a competitive price.
“I think the NAM has done a good job of providing value for money, so it’s not like you’re just writing a check for cyber insurance on an if-come basis,” said Shine. “You’re actually signing up for some user training and some tools that will help you mitigate that risk.”
What it is: NAM Cyber Cover is a cybersecurity and risk-mitigation program developed exclusively for the NAM’s member companies and organizations in partnership with AHT Insurance and Coalition, which specializes in underwriting cyber and technology insurance.
What it offers: Cyber Cover presents a range of benefits for manufacturers seeking to secure themselves against cyber intrusions, allowing them to:
- Manage risks through a free Cyber Risk Assessment, as well as gain access to threat monitoring and vulnerability alerts;
- Mitigate the severity of intrusions with training platforms and programs that help employees recognize issues, while also working with ethical hackers to identify vulnerabilities;
- Receive 24-hour-a-day coverage from Cyber Cover support; and
- Recover from an attack with instant support that helps manufacturers survive and rebuild after a breach.
The word from Manitoba: “Speaking from experience, don’t think it can’t happen to you,” said Shine. “[Cyber attackers are] targeting every company from every walk of life…. To know that you have coverage and a safety net is critical. I would highly advise everybody now to have cyber coverage.”
The word from the NAM: “Modern manufacturers are deploying advanced technologies that are transforming what we make and how we make it. This rapid digitization and the workplace disruptions created by the COVID-19 pandemic have created new and unprecedented risks for our members,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “Our partnership with AHT and Coalition will help protect our industry from cyberattacks and ensure we can continue to lead our economic recovery and renewal.”
As the whole world already knows, a mob seeking to thwart the certification of the U.S. presidential election overwhelmed police and broke into the Capitol building yesterday, forcing the evacuation of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence. Here are some stories to get you up to speed quickly.
Trump’s actions: The Wall Street Journal (subscription) has a useful overview of the horrifying events, including the outgoing president’s actions. After goading the insurrectionists to action throughout the day and attacking Vice President Pence for refusing to overturn the election results, President Donald Trump eventually released a video in which he issued a half-hearted call for “peace” while telling the mob, “We love you.” Twitter and Facebook both temporarily locked his social media accounts.
Democrats respond: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who is slated to be the next Senate majority leader, called for the removal of President Trump. Other lawmakers have also called for his removal.
- “The quickest and most effective way—it can be done today—to remove this president from office would be for the Vice President to immediately invoke the 25th amendment. If the Vice President and the Cabinet refuse to stand up, Congress should reconvene to impeach the president,” said Schumer.
Republicans respond: Some senior Trump officials have resigned, including Special U.S. Envoy to Northern Ireland Mick Mulvaney, who previously served as White House chief of staff.
- In an interview this morning, Mulvaney told CNBC: “We didn’t sign up for what you saw last night…. We signed up for making America great again; we signed up for lower taxes and less regulation. The president has a long list of successes that we can be proud of. But all of that went away yesterday….”
Other officials are considering resigning, according to The Washington Post (subscription), while some have also proposed invoking the 25th Amendment.
Businesses respond: Businesses and trade associations strongly condemned the rioters and President Trump, according to Fox Business. Business leaders nationwide demanded that elected leaders, including the president, call for an end to violence and support the peaceful transfer of power.
- “These were destructive acts against our shared principles and beliefs of a peaceful transition of power,” said Ford Motor Company CEO Jim Farley. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said, “Our leaders must call for peace and unity.”
The NAM’s call: The NAM led the business community in a statement condemning the assault on American democracy. It urged our leaders to seriously consider next steps and reiterated its call for an orderly transition. NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons said:
- “Throughout this whole disgusting episode, Trump has been cheered on by members of his own party, adding fuel to the distrust that has enflamed violent anger. This is not law and order. This is chaos. It is mob rule. It is dangerous. This is sedition and should be treated as such.”
- “Vice President Pence, who was evacuated from the Capitol, should seriously consider working with the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to preserve democracy.”
Read the full statement here.
The bottom line: The NAM is committed to the millions of men and women who make things in America, and who have helped build a country that offers opportunity and freedom for all. The United States cannot function—as a nation or as a people—without respect for the rule of law and the ties that bind us together. Those who lead us must be especially strong in their support for our sacred institutions—or the country will not survive.
The NAM is preparing manufacturers for a possible Emergency Temporary Standard that could be issued at the outset of the Biden administration.
What it is: An ETS is a set of mandatory rules and regulations for employers, issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Department of Labor.
What it’s for: An ETS would be intended to protect the health and safety of workers. While manufacturers are encouraged to follow CDC guidance as they develop and implement their own tailored plans to protect against COVID-19, an ETS could impose compulsory requirements on manufacturing operations, HR departments and safety protocols.
What it includes: There’s no concrete information yet about the text of an ETS, but possible new requirements for manufacturers might include:
- Written plans for stopping the spread of COVID-19;
- A comprehensive assessment of COVID-19 hazards throughout the workplace and a clear plan for diminishing or eliminating those hazards;
- Expanded definitions of terms like “positive COVID-19 case,” “high-risk exposure period” and “physical distancing”;
- Requirements that employees are tested for COVID-19 in some scenarios and paid for the time spent taking tests;
- Increased recordkeeping and reporting on safety procedures; and
- Additional requirements for employees to receive paid leave and testing.
What we’re doing: The NAM has already begun its outreach to the incoming Biden administration to discuss the workplace investments, increased safety protocols and best practices that manufacturers have implemented during the pandemic.
- As part of those conversations, the NAM will also make sure the incoming administration understands the impact of an ETS on vaccine and therapeutics production, supply chains and other essential manufacturing operations.
- It will also educate NAM members via webinars, direct outreach and labor and employment updates so they can be prepared for any changes.
The last word: “Manufacturers are playing a critical role in fighting this pandemic, even as they go above and beyond to support the health and safety of their employees,” said NAM Director of Labor and Employment Policy Drew Schneider.
“The NAM will never stop working to ensure manufacturers have the tools and support they need to take on that challenge. And we will make sure that the incoming administration, the Labor Department and OSHA have the best possible information about how their actions impact the manufacturing industry and the nation.”
Congress’s new funding package, which covers COVID-19 relief and much more, will provide Americans with much-needed security during this holiday season. Manufacturers are among the major beneficiaries, as Congress recognized that the sector is essential to keeping our country healthy, fed and functional throughout the pandemic.
The NAM’s policy team reports that legislators closely followed the NAM’s recommendations in a wide variety of policy areas. Here are a few highlights.
The Paycheck Protection Program: This program was reauthorized with $284 billion in new funding and extended through March 31, 2021. It also lets businesses choose when to spend the loans, expands the list of acceptable uses for the loans and simplifies loan forgiveness.
Taxes: The last round of stimulus, called the CARES Act, included a payroll tax credit for “eligible employees” affected by the virus. This new package extends that credit through June 30, 2021, while also upping the percentage from 50% to 70%. Meanwhile, it increases the amount of workers’ pay that qualifies for this tax credit from $10,000 for the year to $10,000 per quarter.
And that’s not it for taxes. This package also extends or makes permanent many other provisions. For example, it extends the deadline by which workers must pay back deferred payroll taxes, while also extending the temporary, refundable tax credit for small and medium-sized employers that are providing required paid leave.
Labor: As you’ve probably read by now, the package gives workers on unemployment $300 per week on top of their state benefits. These payments will last until March 14, 2021.
Vaccines/COVID-19 care: And now for the measures that will help end this pandemic for good. The package includes $20 billion for the purchase of vaccines, making them free for all who need them; $8 billion for vaccine distribution; $20 billion to assist states with testing; and a $20 billion distribution from the existing provider relief fund.
And we’re still not finished . . .
Long-term fixes: Congress also included manufacturing priorities that predate the pandemic and remain absolutely crucial.
- Energy: This is the big one—the first comprehensive modernization of U.S. energy policy in well over a decade, and an upgrade that the NAM has long fought for. We can’t cover all of its many provisions here, but they include everything from energy storage to nuclear development to carbon capture to renewable energy. It’s a major victory for manufacturers and the NAM.
- Environment: The legislation also includes a provision for phasing down hydrofluorocarbons—greenhouse gases used in refrigeration. Relatedly, it creates new R&D programs for technologies that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the power sector. Both are high priorities for manufacturers’ sustainability efforts.
- Anti-counterfeiting measures: These measures are designed to protect manufacturers’ intellectual property, and they include the empowerment of the Federal Trade Commission to take action against bad actors exploiting the pandemic.
- Transportation: As part of this package, Congress passed the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act, which provides a two-year authorization for ports, inland waterways and important water infrastructure investments.
- Broadband: And lastly, the package funds the improvement of digital infrastructure and broadband access, including for underserved and rural populations. It also includes a support program for those experiencing hardship due to COVID-19.
What’s missing? Since you ask, the package does not include the liability protections that the NAM advocated. But the NAM will continue working on this priority next year.
The last word: NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons said of the legislation, “Some are stirring up controversy over aspects of the spending text to drum up ratings or score political points. But the bottom line is manufacturers—and all Americans—need relief now. This package gives manufacturers and many other Americans a lifeline in the face of the disaster this pandemic continues to wreak on lives and livelihoods. There is unfinished work for sure. But it makes no sense to hold up an action that can bring real relief to this country.”
You can read a more expansive list of policy wins here.
Nicole Reyna’s professional journey—from college student to Army sergeant to senior quality assurance technologist at Smithfield Foods—wasn’t one she had planned. But thanks to The Manufacturing Institute’s Heroes MAKE America program, it’s one that has brought her where she wants to be. Initially, Reyna was interested in medicine and went to college to become a medical assistant. Shortly before graduation, however, she had an experience that changed her mind.
“I was two months from graduating that program, and I was working on removing stitches—and that’s when I realized I was not what you would call a ‘medically inclined person,’” Reyna said.
Instead, she spoke to recruiters at her local mall and ended up joining the U.S. Army, where she served for 12 years in logistics and quality assurance. When she left the military in 2019, she had only 90 days to find a job. And while she was enrolled in Department of Defense program that teaches veterans about resume building and job searching, she ran into a Heroes MAKE America program manager sitting outside the door, giving feedback on job candidates’ LinkedIn profiles and talking about a certified manufacturing program.
“It was a chance thing,” said Reyna. “But the Heroes program was fantastic. They walked through your resume; they help you write your resume; we’d do mock interviews. You go through The Manufacturing Institute’s certification process. And every week, we would go to manufacturing facilities and see what they look like—how robotics work, how generators are built, how food is manufactured. It was very comprehensive.”
The program managers were also highly engaged in ensuring Reyna found a role. When she was initially passed over for a position at a Smithfield distribution center, Reyna’s program manager called the company’s talent acquisition executive to make sure Reyna could receive an interview. After a conversation, Smithfield decided to find Reyna a role—and today, Reyna is one of three senior quality assurance technologists for one of Smithfield’s large distribution centers.
After her experience, Reyna has one piece of advice for people considering the Heroes program: Do it.
“The opportunities afforded to you are insane,” said Reyna. “When you don’t do these programs, you’re thrown to the wolves. At the Heroes program, you have resume assistance, you see facilities, you get to meet with people and speak with hiring managers. And if we put in a resume somewhere, we’d tell our program managers we applied and they’d call to follow up. It’s invaluable.”
As the largest inoculation effort in human history kicked off this month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provided guidance on mandatory employee vaccinations. Here is a brief summary, courtesy of NAM Director of Labor and Employment Policy Drew Schneider.
What they’re saying: The EEOC allows employers to require employees to take the vaccine, so long as the company meets requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.
Equal employment laws still apply during the pandemic, but the EEOC states that they “do not interfere with or prevent employers from following the guidelines and suggestions made by the CDC or state/local public health authorities about steps employers should take regarding COVID-19.”
Disabilities and direct threats: “If an employee is unable to take the vaccine due to a disability, an employer may only exclude the employee from the workplace if that worker presents a ‘direct threat’ to other workers and the employer is unable to provide a reasonable accommodation to the employee that would eliminate or reduce the risk to other employees,” says Schneider.
“If an employer suspects that the employee poses a direct threat, the employer should conduct an individualized assessment of four factors to determine whether direct threat exists: duration of risk, severity of potential harm, likelihood of harm and the imminence of potential harm.”
Religious objections: If an employee objects to the vaccine because of a sincerely held religious practice or belief, an employer must provide reasonable accommodation unless it poses an undue hardship under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Schneider explains. According to the EEOC, courts have defined “undue hardship” as having more than a minimal cost to the employer.
The NAM says: NAM President and CEO Timmons said in a recent statement about potential vaccine mandates, “While there are likely legal concerns with blanket mandates, if any of our members believed that a requirement at their company was the right thing to do, we would certainly support that within the bounds of the law. Because America’s future depends on folks rolling up our sleeves in a new way.”
Check out the guidance here.
International Paper is acutely aware that forests are “the lungs of the landscape,” says Chief Sustainability Officer Sophie Beckham. That’s why the company, which serves 25,000 customers in 150 countries around the world, has developed a close partnership with The Nature Conservancy.
Beckham chatted with us recently about what the two organizations have done together. Here’s the condensed interview.
How it started: International Paper’s collaboration with TNC goes back decades, to the days when International Paper was the largest private forest landowner in the United States. About 15 years ago, when International Paper made the decision to divest of all of its land holdings, TNC acquired significant amounts of the company’s land. And in 2017, International Paper decided to go further—taking on an expansive effort to help others support forests and communities.
- “We wanted to look outside our own supply chains, and understand how might we contribute to knowledge on natural climate solutions and biodiversity,” said Beckham. “Working on projects that are more global in scope and more focused on natural climate solutions—that was the beginning of the relationship.”
Phase 1: First, International Paper partnered with TNC to reduce the carbon impact of logging in southeast Asia, including through cutting-edge methods like bioacoustics—a technique for measuring the biodiversity of forests by recording the animals and insects that live there. The company also employed reduced-impact logging methods to advance carbon sequestration.
Phase 2: Earlier this year, the partnership moved into a new phase, and today International Paper is bringing its expertise to North American forests. It partners with private local landowners to sequester more carbon, which reduces the impact of climate change while protecting the land’s commercial value.
- “We’ve learned from our experiences around the world that we have great opportunities to promote sustainability without compromising the economic value of the land for landowners—and now, we’re bringing those techniques to forests in North America,” says Beckham.
Good advice: For other companies interested in promoting sustainability, Beckham emphasizes the importance of strategic partnerships and collaboration.
“There was a time in which manufacturers felt a little bit in the defensive position with environmental stakeholders—but the turning point has already happened,” said Beckham.
About 30 million American workers without four-year college degrees have the skills necessary for jobs that pay 70% more than their current roles, according to a new study cited by The New York Times (subscription).
The opportunity: “The findings point to the potential of upward mobility for millions of Americans, who might be able to climb from low-wage jobs to middle-income occupations or higher.”
- “Our research shows the same thing,” said Manufacturing Institute Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Gardner Carrick. “We know that less than half the people that earn a manufacturing certification go to work in manufacturing. Those people have the skills to work in manufacturing, but are not doing so. And we know that is costing them between $10K–$15K in earnings every year.”
The challenge: These workers may not know they have the skills for more lucrative careers, and potential employers may be on the lookout for particular certifications or degrees. Today, two-thirds of jobs require some postsecondary education or training—whether that involves a four-year college degree, or a specialized technical or nontechnical course that prepares a potential employee for their role.
A way forward: The Manufacturing Institute’s FAME program offers students the opportunity to earn a two-year associate degree while working in their sponsor’s manufacturing facility as an Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT).
The pitch: “The FAME program enables people to maximize their earnings, because we don’t just build skills—we teach individuals to be world-class manufacturing employees,” said Carrick. “A recent study by Opportunity America and the Brookings Institution showed that FAME students are more than twice as likely to complete school as students in other similar technical programs and will earn almost twice as much as those students in the five years after school.”
The NAM is calling for Congress to temporarily extend a COVID-19 tax relief provision that would support manufacturers affected by the pandemic.
The background: Currently, the maximum deduction for interest on business loans is limited to 30% of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA). When COVID-19 hit, however, many businesses saw their earnings fall, which also caused their allowable business interest deduction to decrease, even as firms were forced to take out loans to stay afloat. To support these businesses, Congress increased the allowable business interest deduction from 30% to 50% of EBITDA in the bipartisan CARES Act.
The problem: The legislation only covered tax years 2019 and 2020, which means it expires in just a few weeks. At that point, the allowable deduction will fall again to 30% of EBITDA, making it more expensive for struggling companies to stay afloat. The NAM is calling on Congress to extend the provision for one more year.
Why it matters: In a capital-intensive industry like manufacturing, businesses use debt to finance important investments in critical technology.
- With the pandemic causing earnings to fall in some sectors, many manufacturers are holding a larger ratio of debt-to-earnings, making their investments more expensive.
- An economic analysis by Ernst & Young found that a one-year extension of the current 50% rate could help create up to 85,000 jobs and add billions of dollars in GDP.
The word from the NAM: “Congress intended to offer a lifeline to businesses that are struggling in the midst of COVID-19—and although we can see a light at the end of the tunnel, the pandemic still rages on,” said NAM Vice President of Tax and Domestic Economic Policy Chris Netram. “Manufacturers are calling on Congress to extend this provision for another year so that it does what it was meant to do: support American workers and keep America in business.”