CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., on Tuesday announced the creation of a new bipartisan Senate Steel Caucus to promote domestic steel production.
Other leaders of the new caucus include: Sens. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; and Pat Toomey, R-Pa.
"West Virginia's steel history runs deep with workers who have literally built this nation," Rockefeller said.
"I have fought to level the playing field for the hardworking men and women in the steel industry, though we have still seen the strains from unfair competition abroad that these workers have faced. We need to make sure our steelworkers can compete on a level playing field and that we're helping to keep those jobs here at home."
Many steel companies have faced financial problems in recent years, including Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel and companies that operated Weirton's steel mill.
Brown said, "The steel industry is pivotal to Ohio's already strong manufacturing base. I will continue to fight for Ohio steel producers and workers, especially against unfair imports. Our state is adding manufacturing jobs for the first time since the 1990s and the Steel Caucus will help to continue that progress."
Sessions said, "The steel industry has long been a foundational industry for Alabama's economy and the nation's [economy]. Despite unfair and illegal trade practices from foreign competitors, American steel remains strong even during these tough economic times.
"But the legitimate interests of the American worker must be defended on the world stage. The mission of the caucus is to ensure fair, lawful trade and to create a climate where private sector growth occurs and more good paying jobs are created."
The new Senate Steel Caucus will be a forum for policy discussions about issues impacting the steel industry, which employs 153,700 people in more than 100 facilities today, the senators said.
Labor productivity in the domestic steel industry improved dramatically during the past generation, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute, a coalition of steel producers.
The time required to produce a finished ton of steel in the U.S. dropped from 10.1 man-hours to two man-hours between the early 1980s and 2006.
The world's top steel producer for many years, the United States ranked a distant third behind China and Japan in 2012.
In 2012, Asian countries accounted for 65.4 percent of world steel production, which topped 1.5 trillion tons, setting a new record, according to the World Steel Association.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgasette.com or 304- 348-5164.