ThyssenKrupp takes away jobs?

Editor’s note: With fewer real football stories taking place, we are entertaining ourselves with commentary on other issues involving the state. We’ll try to append a note at the top of each in case you’d rather just skip the stuff that isn’t football.

“Instead of sending jobs overseas this time, Alabama is using taxpayer money to bring in a foreign company that will take away our jobs,” said Craig England of the United Steelworkers of America, according to the Birmingham News.

Take a close look at this sentence again: “Instead of sending jobs overseas this time, Alabama is using taxpayer money to bring in a foreign company that will take away our jobs,” he said.

Take away what? OUR JOBS.

I wasn’t aware ThyssenKrupp’s plan to create about 30,000 new jobs (2,700 direct and another 20,000-35,000 indirect) would be a bad thing.

Especially, when that project would be built in Alabama or Louisiana regardless of what Mr. England wants.

If England really believes jobs are in jeopardy, he is talking about jobs at U.S. Steel’s Fairfield plant—a place where tens of thousands of steelworkers once worked, but today just about 2,500 work due to improvements in efficiency driven by technology.

U.S. Steel is on record as opposing the recruiting of the plant. But, the stance drew criticism from many in the state who have seen U.S. Steel first in line to benefit from economic development incentives.

The stance by U.S. Steel and the USWA would make more sense if the global steel market was where it was 15 or 20 years ago—it was a time of a steel glut. A time where governments from Europe, Asia and South America were dumping steel on the U.S. market at below cost prices. This hurt American steel manufacturers and steelworkers.

But today, the steel market is strong. Stronger than perhaps at any time since the 1950’s. Just take a look at U.S. Steel’s stock price, in 2003 it was trading at an anemic level (around $10 per share in April 2003), but today the stock is in the stratosphere trading over $110 per share. The just released first quarter numbers for 2007 show U.S. Steel repurchased about 5 percent of its outstanding shares and increased its earnings by 6.6 percent.

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As the global economy develops, demand for steel will continue to rise. There is little reason to see any negative effect on U.S. Steel’s Fairfield operation form the ThyssenKrupp plant.

But let’s go back to Mr. England’s comment again: “Instead of sending jobs overseas this time, Alabama is using taxpayer money to bring in a foreign company that will take away our jobs,” he said.

”OUR JOBS” that really should read union jobs. The USWA doesn’t want the new plant built because it could mean fewer union jobs. Never mind how it would create tens of thousands of better jobs for fellow Alabamians and Americans. Never mind how this would expand the economy. It would mean reducing the Union’s voice.

So, the union’s opposition to the plant is all about one thing: power. As the American workforce shifts, fewer and fewer workers want to be in a union. And that is sad. There were days when unions made the work environment safer and better.

But those days are gone. Today’s unions are all about fostering inefficiencies (see the Alabama Education Association), and most workers don’t see a benefit from joining a union.

It is sad. But the union and its leadership has only itself to blame. They’ve weakened US companies (like GM and Ford) with unrealistic demands, which have reduced competitiveness and quality.

Unions should look closely at themselves, adjust their expectations and find ways to help their membership instead of hurting it.

My father was a steelworker, my grandfather was a steelworker. So, I have a real desire to see our industrial workers thrive. The way they thrive is to help the business environment—to create more jobs and more opportunities for all of Alabama citizens.

ThyssenKrupp does that. Unfortunately, the USWA in particular and unions in general no longer do.