AMHERST, N.Y. — From local construction projects to area automotive plants, steel is an important component in keeping those industries running. Now, with talk of a tariff on imported steel and aluminum, some workers’ unions are concerned.
"The steel could start it, and then if we do get into a tariff war with any of those countries, what are they going to put a tariff on that we supply them? That we're going to have to stop supplying them?" said Jim Lakeman.
Lakeman is a spokesperson for the United Auto Workers Region 9, which represents about 42,000 autoworkers in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He says the Ford plant in Hamburg uses American steel for the platforms it produces. Those products are then shipped to Canada and Kentucky. He says if the tariff triggers a trade war, a ripple effect will be felt in Western New York.
"If the motor plant's not making engines for cars that are getting exported, then how does that affect the town of Tonawanda? Or Ford isn't making blankings or if they're not making Fenders for The Edge, then how does that affect the Hamburg area and so on? It's a major concern of ours and the biggest concern is the rhetoric because that's what it is right now," said Lakeman.
UB School of Management Professor of Finance Veljko Fotak says tariffs could have a short-term effect of creating jobs at U.S. based steel and aluminum plants while simultaneously killing jobs among industries that rely on steel and aluminum products.
"And that's only the direct consequence of these tariffs. Once we factor in retaliation from other countries which is inevitable, then job losses are going to be even deeper," said Fotak.
He says it remains to be seen as the president releases more details about the plan.