“The Room Where It Happens”?

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The Senate HELP Committee cancelled a mark-up of the Senate version of Perkins CTE reauthorization this week. Perhaps negotiations are on-going and a bi-partisan agreement will emerge, but the window for action is quickly closing.

Manufacturers have advanced key issues in the 114th Congress, even during a time when some of the most contentious factions exist within the House of Representatives. Earlier this month, the House compromised to approve (405-5) similar legislation that the Senate is struggling to agree on during this compressed September schedule. This is a program in need of positive change and legislating does not need to be this challenging.

The Senate needs to put its differences aside and work together to get Perkins done. If the Senate does not put skin in the game soon, it may well be game over for Perkins CTE reauthorization in this Congressional round—leaving the next Congress to start from square one. So much work has been accomplished to get to this point, it would be unfortunate it to jettison this important effort that supports the next generation of manufacturing workers.

Manufacturers are actively working on solutions to close a skills gap that is hindering productivity and the overall ability for American Manufacturers to be more innovative and competitive in the global market. They continue to engage on a local level to communicate the skills they are looking for. They are partnering with educational institutions to develop programs and working with local governments to drive the change needed to remedy the skills gap. Without an updated Perkins—which reflects the needs of the modern employer—they lose their competitive edge.

“When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game. But you don’t get a win unless you play in the game. Oh, you get love for it, you get hate for it. You get nothing if you wait for it, wait for it, wait for it…”  Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

The Power of Your People: Why Employee Engagement Programs are Essential to CSR Initiatives

By | General, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy, Sustainability | No Comments

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This guest blog post is authored by Scott Tew, Executive Director of the Center for Energy Efficiency & Sustainability (CEES) at Ingersoll Rand.

We’ve seen that our employees can teach us a lot about sustainability. In fact, many of their sustainable actions at home translate to, and thrive in, the workplace, further helping advance corporate engagement and sustainability efforts. By harnessing the motivating passion of employees and allowing them to work on projects near and dear to them, businesses are in a unique position to make corporate sustainability initiatives relevant to their staff’s day-to-day lives. Small, focused and passionate efforts made through employee engagement programs can make a big impact when viewed in the aggregate, highlighting the potential of these types of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

At Ingersoll Rand – an industrial leader in creating comfortable, sustainable environments – we’ve seen great success in engaging our employees on CSR efforts with our Green Teams program. Green Teams are local Ingersoll Rand employee volunteer groups green-monday-waco-2015_07_27_green-teamswith three goals: enable progress, measure progress, and celebrate success. Established in 2011, our Green Team network consists of nearly 100 teams around the globe.  This program has resulted in impactful, local projects globally. Domestically, we’ve seen a local Green Team entirely revamp the recycling program (signage, color-coding, bins, etc.) at our Charlotte Remanufacturing Center, which led to a 150 percent increase in recycling universal waste and e-waste in 2015. At Ingersoll Rand’s Taicang plant in China, where the Green Team will have invested more than 10,000 volunteer hours in Hengli School by the end of 2016, employees are improving school facilities and working with teachers to introduce new teaching techniques.


Through internal collaboration and partnership with community groups, Green Teams have successfully advanced our sustainability objectives highlighted in our Climate Commitment, helping the company avoid 2 million metric tons of CO2 – the equivalent to the electricity used in 270,000 homes for a year. Beyond reducing emissions, other climate change and environmental contributions have successfully:

  • Saved more than 80 billion BTUs of energy;
  • Saved nearly 6 million gallons of water; and
  • Avoided sending more than 6 million pounds of waste to landfills.

It’s important to help employees understand that their actions play an important role in meeting the company’s energy commitments. Therefore, we’ve instituted a system where employees can continuously self-report their progress in terms of personal actions, which allows the company to track and monitor total improvements made in energy efficiency and waste reduction. Not only does this demonstrate the tremendous impact of strong employee engagement on our greater CSR goals, it also inspires everyone to contribute more once they see the difference they’re making.

We believe that local, community efforts are key for making an impact on global sustainability initiatives and show us what companies can achieve with strong employee engagement programs. How are you unlocking the power and passion of your employees to work toward your CSR goals?

NAM Challenges DOL’s New Overtime Rule

By | Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action, Shopfloor Legal, Shopfloor Main | No Comments

The Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action filed a complaint with a coalition of other associations on September 20, 2016, to challenge the Department of Labor’s (DOL) new overtime rule, asserting the new rule exceeds the authority of the DOL under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Unless a court stops it, this unprecedented rule will impair employers’ ability to classify as exempt from overtime executive, administrative, professional, and computer employees. The new rule will go into effect on December 1, 2016, causing economic harm to both employers and the employees who will be subject to the new overtime requirements.

The new overtime rule drastically alters DOL’s minimum salary requirements—increasing the minimum by 100%, from $23,660 to $47,476 annually—so as to impose new overtime payment requirements on businesses of all sizes. This directly effects those individuals who have historically been considered exempt from overtime pay. Due to the drastic rise in the salary threshold, employees will have to be reclassified and will inevitably lose many of the benefits and flexibilities that go along with being an exempt employee, such as flexible work schedules that permit employees to sometimes work outside of the normal business hours due to personal obligations.\

In addition, DOL’s new rule permits employers for the first time to count nondiscretionary bonuses, incentives and commissions toward up to 10 percent of the minimum salary level for exemption; however, this provision is so restricted by the DOL as to be meaningless. It also establishes an unprecedented automatic “escalator” provision that will dramatically increase the minimum salary every three years without a rulemaking. Congress has provided for automatic increases in other areas, such as the cost of living for Social Security benefits, but Congress has never provided for automatic increases of the minimum wage. The escalator provision exacerbates the detrimental impact on businesses, both large and small, by automatically updating the minimum salary requirements to even higher levels every three years.

DOL has failed to recognize the infeasibility, costs and real-world impacts of the new overtime rule. As noted in our press release, manufacturers of all sizes will bear the burden of this costly regulation that will force many employers to cut critical programming, staffing and services to the public. Many of these employers will lose the ability to effectively manage their workforces and provide flexibility to valued employees on the pathway to the middle class. This new rule will injure employers and employees across many industries, job categories and geographic areas by denying them opportunities for advancement and hindering performance of their jobs. We are hopeful that the court will understand the importance of this issue and overturn DOL’s new overtime rule.

Federal Reserve Left Interest Rates Unchanged at its September Meeting

By | Economy, Shopfloor Economics, Shopfloor Main | No Comments

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) left short-term interest rates unchanged at the conclusion of its September 20–21 meeting, as expected. Indeed, in the latest NAM Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey, 45.5 percent of respondents felt that the Federal Reserve would wait until its December 13–14 meeting, mirroring consensus expectations. (The FOMC does have another meeting scheduled for November 1–2, but they are unlikely to act just a few days before the U.S. General Election.) The press release sets up a possible rate hike later this year, with the following language: “The Committee judges that the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has strengthened but decided, for the time being, to wait for further evidence of continued progress toward its objectives.” Recent softness in a number of economic measures were enough for the FOMC to hit the pause button, at least for now. Read More

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Manufacturing Production Data for August Were Disappointing

By | Economy, Shopfloor Economics, Shopfloor Main | No Comments

According to the Federal Reserve, manufacturing production fell by 0.4 percent in August. After two straight months of gains, this news was disappointing, even as it mirrored weaknesses found in other economic indicators in August. Moreover, manufacturing production has declined over the past 12 months, the first year-over-year decline since December. In addition, manufacturing capacity utilization decreased from 75.2 percent to 74.8 percent, a three-month low. As such, this report highlights the tremendous challenges in the sector. Nonetheless, manufacturers continue to be cautiously hopeful for increased activity over the coming months, as noted in our latest survey.

The current softness, though, means that policymakers need to focus more on priorities that will grow the economy and increase competitiveness. It also suggests that the Federal Reserve is likely to wait to raise rates. Along those lines, 45.5 percent of respondents to our survey felt that the Federal Open Market Committee would hike rates in December.

Read More

Rhode Island Lawsuit Targets Deep Pockets, Not Justice

By | Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action, Shopfloor Legal, Shopfloor Main | No Comments

A bedrock principle of tort law in this country is that the party who causes the damage is the one who should be liable for fixing the damage.  Even under a standard of “strict liability” where a defendant is liable without a finding of fault, courts require a showing that the damage in question was actually caused by the defendant at the table.

A lawsuit recently filed in Rhode Island, led by the state’s Attorney General and staffed by hired-gun private plaintiff’s lawyers who stand to make a mint if the lawsuit is successful, seeks to break from this foundational principle.  That should be of concern to any manufacturer that could become the target of creative plaintiffs’ lawyer lawsuits—which is to say, to every manufacturer.

The lawsuit involves the gasoline oxygenate MTBE, which was for a time blended with motor fuel in order to meet federal emissions standards.  The problem with MTBE is that it is highly water soluble, and if underground storage tanks containing gasoline leak, the MTBE stored in them can contaminate groundwater.  Of course, the owners of these tanks, if they can be identified, have always been, and continue to be, responsible for cleaning up such leaks. On top of that, Congress created a special trust fund to pay for cleanups when the owner or cause is unknown, or where the owner may not have the wherewithal to pay.  The fund, which has been around since the mid-1980’s, is paid for by a tax levied on the petroleum industry on every gallon of fuel sold.

Unfortunately, many of the states where MTBE was most heavily used are also states that have suffered poor economic growth and have faced major budget challenges in recent years.  This has led many of these states, including Rhode Island, to raid their cleanup funds for other state budget priorities, thus creating the need to find alternative sources of funds to handle these cleanups.  Cue the trial bar, who have shopped MTBE lawsuits to several state Attorneys General and have found fertile hunting ground in the cash-strapped northeastern states.

The Rhode Island legal filing includes a smorgasbord of legal theories intended to bypass the inconvenient need to show that the defendants in the case actually caused the damage the lawsuit seeks to remedy.  The case seeks to pin liability on any company that sold reformulated fuel in the state—regardless of whose actions or whose storage tanks actually caused contamination.  It is, remarkably, a sanction based on simply doing business in the state of Rhode Island, which the state seeks to allocate according to the market share held by industry participants during the relevant time period.  Beyond the tort law implications of this case, it is remarkable that a state so badly in need of economic investment would target an industry simply for doing business there.

No matter how much money the defendants have paid into the state fund to cover such cleanups and regardless of the extensive efforts they may have already gone through to prevent leaks and to remediate those that occurred under their watch, the companies are targeted in this lawsuit because they are perceived as most able to pay.  This is a case about targeting deep pockets, not about remedying past wrongs, and certainly not about justice.

Key Workforce Development Bill Passes House; Now Time for Senate Vote

By | Human Resources, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

Today the House approved H.R. 5587, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (aka Perkins Act), sponsored by Representatives Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Katherine Clark (D-MA). The Perkins Act aims to increase the quality of technical education through promotions of Career and Technical Education programs on the high school and college levels.

The NAM sent a key vote letter to support this reauthorization which updated past efforts to match the needs of employers and focus on in-demand occupations. It strengthens the use of industry-recognized credentials in educational programs to align with employers’ needs putting it in harmony with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. It also promotes work-based learning and allows funds to be used towards the purchase of needed manufacturing equipment as well as certification exams upon completion of training.

The NAM led a significant push by manufacturers to see this legislation move forward. A support letter was signed by nearly 500 member companies, affiliate organizations and other supporters showing the strong base of approval for this important legislation. In addition many manufacturers and friends of manufacturing reached out directly to their members urging support.

The ability of manufacturers to succeed in the highly competitive global marketplace depends on access to an educated, diverse, inclusive flexible and knowledge-based workforce. American employees, in turn, need the education and skills to participate in a high-performance workforce for the robust and dynamic U.S. manufacturing economy. Skills gap surveys conducted by the NAM consistently underscore how a vast majority of American manufacturers are facing a serious shortage of qualified employees which is taking an increasingly negative toll on American manufacturers’ ability to be innovative and productive. Reauthorization of the Perkins Act is a strong step towards addressing that gap.

The NAM looks forward to working with the Senate in the coming weeks to ensure that the Perkins Act is reauthorized before the end of the year.

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NAM Outlook Survey shows improvements in expected growth, but lingering challenges

By | Economy, Shopfloor Economics, Shopfloor Main | No Comments

In the latest NAM Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey, sentiment appears to have stabilized after several quarters of declining assessments about the economic outlook, and the latest data appear to mostly back that assertion up, but with some caveats. Indeed, economic challenges continue in the sector, among them being concerns over rising health care costs and dampening perceived growth rates over the next 12 months despite some progress in this release. Large manufacturers were more upbeat about their company’s outlook this quarter, but small and medium-sized manufacturers experienced declines in their outlook in this survey. Overall, one could characterize manufacturers’ current economic outlook as cautiously encouraging, but still less-than-desired and highly varied by firm size and export sales growth expectations.

In this survey, 61.0 percent of manufacturers are either somewhat or very positive about their own company’s outlook, easing slightly from 61.7 percent who said the same thing in June. Yet, the outlook remained stronger than at the end of last year and the beginning of this year, marking some progress from earlier softness. At the same time, this marks the fifth consecutive quarter when positive responses about the outlook have fallen below the historic average of 73.0 percent. Read More

President Obama Has Crossed the Line

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National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons issued the following statement after the Obama administration moved to halt construction of the Dakota Access pipeline:

“The Obama administration just made the decision to put politics above jobs, trying to stall, obfuscate and scapegoat in order to block this job-creating energy infrastructure project. The administration has ignored the rule of law because it doesn’t like the court’s findings that the project can move forward.

“This sets a bad precedent that could threaten future infrastructure projects of all types. For manufacturers, this means the men and women supplying steel pipe, coatings, construction equipment, compressor motors, gauges and instruments, sand and gravel and other key components to the Dakota Access project are sitting idle, without work.

“We understand there are concerns, and above all, we want discussions about this project to be peaceful, productive and respectful. But it’s time for the administration to put its political agenda aside. It’s time to put people to work, including the many manufacturers who will build the components of this project. Let’s come together to move forward, create jobs, strengthen our economy and boost manufacturing.”

Sustainable Development Through Public-Private Partnerships

By | General, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy, Sustainability | No Comments

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This guest blog post is authored by William (Bill) Steers, general manager, communications and corporate responsibility for ArcelorMittal’s Americas region, which encompasses more than 50 steel production, mining and finishing facilities, and approximately 40,000 employees. He oversees the company’s corporate responsibility efforts across two continents as well as corporate communications, media relations and brand management. 

In 2014, ArcelorMittal launched a comprehensive new approach to ensuring the sustainability of our business and the contribution to society – our 10 sustainable development outcomes. The words we used to name this approach are important and specific – sustainable development outcomes. Sustainable development means, in short, meeting today’s needs without compromising future generations. At ArcelorMittal, we believe our company and the steel industry can rise to this challenge.

One of the many ways we contribute to sustainable development outcomes at ArcelorMittal is through public-private partnerships that build opportunities to be an active and welcome member of the communities where we operate. We recognize it is not enough for ArcelorMittal to be resilient and sustainable, the communities surrounding us must be as well. Our experience has shown that strong public-private partnerships can be instrumental in bringing together a variety of experienced, like minded partners to leverage collective resources around common goals for greater impact.

dscn0412Two strong initiatives that affirm ArcelorMittal’s commitment to public-private partnerships as a vehicle for community resilience and sustainability are Sustain Our Great Lakes and our evolving work with the Millennium Reservegreat-lakes-2

For some context, the Great Lakes are truly at the center of the ArcelorMittal business in North America. More than 70 percent of our employees in North America live and work in the Great Lakes region. Spanning the U.S./Canada border, these world-famous lakes provide drinking water to 35 million people and transport raw materials to steel plants responsible for around 20 million metric tons of steel each year.

In 2007, ArcelorMittal teamed up with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), and several Federal agencies including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to launch the Sustain Our Great Lakes. Addressing goals that will ultimately improve habitat and water quality across the basin, the SOGL program brings together public and private funding to make competitive grants for on-the-ground projects that sustain, restore and protect fish, wildlife and habitat in the Great Lakes basin. Since beginning the partnership we have contributed almost $6 million which has unlocked twenty times that amount in matched and grant funding. However the importance of the partnership goes far beyond the dollars we have contributed, the strong collaboration with partners, the ability to access and raise awareness among diverse stakeholder groups has allowed the partnership to substantially contribute to restoring approximately 33,000 acres and nearly 200 miles of marine and riparian habitat since our funding started.

July 14, 2016 Millennium Reserve press conference and announcement at ArcelorMittal in Riverdale, IL, on July 14, 2016, attended by David St. Pierre and Commissioner David J. Walsh, IL Rep Marcus Evans, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Wayne Rosenthal, Executive Director at South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association Edward Paesel, IDNR Suellen Burns, Marty Ozinga from Ozinga,

Millennium Reserve press conference and announcement at ArcelorMittal in Riverdale, IL, on July 14, 2016, attended by David St. Pierre and Commissioner David J. Walsh, IL Rep Marcus Evans, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Wayne Rosenthal, Executive Director at South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association Edward Paesel, IDNR Suellen Burns, Marty Ozinga from Ozinga.

A second exciting initiative is our participation with the Millennium Reserve. Our presence in the Calumet region brought us to the Millennium Reserve initiative at its inception. Since then, Millennium Reserve has been working to advance Sustainable Development initiatives that recognize and build on the nexus between economic development, stronger more resilient communities and the many environmental and ecological assets of the Calumet region

In the Calumet region of Illinois and Indiana, ArcelorMittal was a founding member of the Millennium Reserve– a public-private partnership formed in 2012 by then Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. The initiative brought together state and local government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private companies to advance Sustainable Development initiatives that recognize and build on the nexus between economic development, stronger more resilient communities and the many environmental and ecological assets of the Calumet region.

Last year, I was honored to become Chair of the Millennium Reserve, and with the support of Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, move this project to the next level. To advance this exciting work, we are strengthening the partnership to foster new level of collaboration in sustainable development for our region by expanding across the border, engaging stakeholders in Northwest Indiana and taking a regional approach to solving the area’s greatest challenges. Only through partnership and collaboration can we leverage our collective resources to advance the Calumet region as it transforms itself into an area recognized for its economic, environmental and cultural value.

Each of these public-private partnerships represents a sustainable development opportunity for ArcelorMittal and an opportunity to leverage knowledge and resources beyond our own.  Partnering within our communities, government agencies and like-minded NGOs, we build stronger relationships and better understanding of stakeholder expectations in our communities. This provides a unique opportunity to ensure our business strategies align with the expectations for sustainability and resilience found in our communities.