If you don’t believe manufacturing jobs matter to America — that we’d all be better off giving up the ghost of heavy industry and the lunch pail for tech startups and flat whites — perhaps a crying steelworker will change your mind.
President Trump was in Granite City, Illinois, on Thursday speaking to workers at the U.S. Steel Mill there, touting his economic policies — including his controversial tariffs on steel and aluminum.
KSDK-TV reported that the factory had seen many of its jobs return since the 25 percent tariff on steel was introduced, part of a long comeback for the factory.
As of late 2015, both of the factory’s blast furnaces were sitting idle along with all other steel-making facilities at the plant.
“If you don’t have steel, you don’t have a country,” Trump told the workers, according to CBS News.
“I look at the faces of you people. I could be one of you.”
Having the blast furnaces and steelmaking facilities back up in one factory sounds nice as an abstract thing, but what does it mean to steelworkers?
Take a listen to this gentleman, who’s worked at the mill for four years.
When asked what he loved about being a steelworker, he responded, “Everything. It’s — I put it off way too long and it’s — now I realized it’s just my calling.”
When asked how much it meant to the community, the burly steelworker began to tear up.
He was then asked what he would take away from the president’s speech.
“Sounds like we’re going to be good to me,” he said amid tears. “It’s just nice to know that we’ve got someone fighting for us, you know, to keep our jobs. It was rough for a lot of us.”
So rough, in fact, that he was out of work for two-and-a-half years. When he found work, he said, he was doing 70 to 80 hours a week to make things work out.
Now, he says, he can “make a living doing a 40 hour week and still see my family.”
When we talk about jobs, we talk about them in the abstract: unemployment numbers, hot sectors, dying industries, tariffs, that sort of thing. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this. After all, tariffs are one of the most controversial issues when it comes to Trump’s agenda, especially among conservatives. Tariffs can be excellent bargaining chips when it comes to ending protectionist policies abroad, but tariffs qua tariffs make prices more expensive for the average American.
However, we often forget that behind that macroeconomic debate are faces — faces like this. This is a man who’s back to work under the current administration and in a job he loves. An industry that many wanted to leave to die on the vine has made a bit of a comeback under Trump — and that’s made a lot of people happy.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.