UAW Welcomes Trump Car-Import Probe, Rest of Detroit Stays Silent

Auto workers are getting behind an investigation into the impact that car imports are having on the U.S., just as President Donald Trump predicted.

“I welcome the fact that they’re investigating this,” United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams told reporters Thursday in Detroit. “The United States became a dumping ground for a lot of countries at a very low cost.”

The union leader’s support, voiced a day after Trump teased “big news” for American auto workers, wasn’t quite full-throated. Williams said he still doesn’t know “the mechanics” of what Trump will do. The president asked the U.S. Commerce Department to conduct a probe under a section of 1960s trade law into whether auto imports pose a national security threat.

General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV — three of the top employers of dues-paying UAW members — have yet to issue statements in response to the Trump administration’s investigation. Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp. said Thursday that it “seems implausible” that imported cars pose national security concerns.

Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act gives the U.S. president the power to impose tariffs on imports that imperil national security. While it’s been used sparingly by previous administrations, Trump invoked it earlier this year when imposing global tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. The section also gives the president the power to limit imports.

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Economists and others in Washington “are free traders to the detriment of our country,” Williams said. “American workers have been handed the short stick for a long time.”

Those comments are reminiscent of Trump’s cryptic tweet sent hours before White House and Commerce Department statements announced their investigation Wednesday.

“After many decades of losing your jobs to other countries, you have waited long enough!” Trump wrote in reference to “great” American auto workers.

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Williams also said that he supports changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement that would restrict or tax imports from low wage-paying auto plants in Mexico. He said workers in the country make $2 to $3.50 an hour, a fraction of what employees in Canada, the U.S. and Europe earn.

“Companies are taking advantage of a government-controlled wage, government-controlled unions,” he said. “I’d like to see the U.S. and Canada put real pressure on Mexico to have real collective bargaining.”

— With assistance by John Lippert

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