The BRICK Act Moves Forward and Manufacturers Gain Regulatory Certainty

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

Today, the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee held a markup and approved the Blocking Regulatory Interference from Closing Kilns Act of 2018 (S. 2461), a bipartisan bill that would permit a full legal review of national emissions standards for brick, clay products, and clay ceramics manufacturing before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires regulatory compliance. On March 7, the House passed similar legislation (H.R. 1917) that was strongly supported by the NAM.

The NAM fully supports the ongoing national effort to protect our environment and improve public health through appropriate laws and regulations. However, manufacturers need policies that provide regulatory certainty, and ensure a sustainable environment and economy. In September 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued final National Emissions Standards for Brick, Structural Clay Products and Clay Ceramics Manufacturing, often referred to as Brick MACT. It is estimated that this rule will collectively cost the brick industry, which is made up of predominantly small- and medium-sized manufacturers, more than $100 million dollars per year.

When regulations stretch beyond what the law allows, manufacturers and other stakeholders must turn to the courts for relief – a lengthy process that can take months, if not years. Under the Blocking Regulatory Interference from Closing Kilns Act of 2018, if a final rule under this Act is challenged in court, the compliance date extension would be limited to December 26, 2020. However, if the court refutes EPA’s rule, the legislation requires the Agency to issue new regulations within one year. This bill is a commonsense approach, as it ensures that manufacturers will have the certainty that the investments they make are based on laws that the courts have determined are appropriate and legal.

Manufacturers support reasonable environmental policies but need regulatory certainty to make necessary, long-term investments – and they believe both goals can be achieved through S. 2461. With the Committee’s approval of the bill today, the measure will now proceed to the Senate for consideration.

SEC Withdraws Proxy Firm No-Action Letters

By | General, Shopfloor Main | No Comments

Investment advisers owe a fiduciary duty to the middle-class Americans whose retirement accounts they manage. Their decisions on how to vote an investor’s shares in corporate proxy contests must be guided by the investor’s best interests. But how can an investment adviser guard against any conflicts of interest that he or she may have and ensure that all proxy voting decisions are made in the best interest of the investor? It’s a good question, and one that helps explain why actions taken last week by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are so important.

Back in 2004, the SEC issued two so-called “no-action” letters that allowed investment advisers to simply outsource proxy voting decision-making to third party proxy advisory firms in order to mitigate their own potential conflicts of interest.  What those no-action letters failed to account for, however, were the many shortcomings and, worse, conflicts of interest embedded in the proxy advisory firms’ business models.

The practical effect of the no-action letters was, for more than a decade, to entrench and empower these unregulated, black box proxy advisory firms. Millions of Main Street investors are unaware that these important decisions have been outsourced to conflicted third parties – so the NAM has for years called on the SEC to withdraw the 2004 no-action letters. Last week, that’s just what the SEC did.

The SEC’s decision will restore the primacy of a fund manager’s fiduciary duty to protect investors’ retirement savings and also reduce proxy firms’ influence over manufacturers and the important decisions that guide company growth, job creation, and economic expansion in America.

NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons released a statement last week praising the decision and calling for further oversight of proxy firms.  The SEC’s announcement is a precursor to further discussion of these important issues at its proxy roundtable in November, where the NAM will continue to advocate for corporate governance policies that bolster capital formation for manufacturers and strengthen the long-term interests of Main Street investors.

I Rode My Motorcycle Across the United States to Visit America’s Manufacturers. Here’s What I Learned.

By | General, Shopfloor Main | No Comments

As the National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) director of photography and a former White House photographer, I’ve seen a lot of America. This past week, I drove my motorcycle from Washington, D.C., to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to visit America’s modern manufacturers in advance of Manufacturing Day and the Harley-Davidson’s 115th anniversary event. As I rolled into Labor Day weekend, I met amazing men and women who keep America strong through their manufacturing careers. You can learn more about the cool innovations and opportunities the manufacturing industry creates by participating in Manufacturing Day this October 5.

Here are the top-five things I learned on my ride: Read More

Manufacturers Support Global Movement of Goods by Air

By | Infrastructure, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

Before Open Skies agreements, international commerce was stifled by post–World War II aviation rules that required governments to mandate flight routes between nations. These antiquated rules could not adapt to the aviation needs of a global economy and emerging technologies. In 1992, the United States signed an Open Skies agreement with the Netherlands to provide for unlimited flight between the two nations. Of course, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was, and still is, responsible for ensuring that all airlines—foreign and domestic, passenger and cargo—are safe and airworthy. The bipartisan pursuit of Open Skies agreements created a framework to enable U.S. passenger and cargo airlines to access foreign aviation markets that had previously shut out U.S. air carriers. They also provide manufacturers the ability to access new customers in overseas markets while increasing competition and facilitating global trade.

Manufacturers have been stalwart advocates of these agreements because we export U.S.-made parts and goods across the world and thus depend on air cargo services with the kind of uninterrupted and continuous global reach that only Open Skies agreements can provide. In fact, the Brookings Institution estimates that Open Skies agreements add approximately $4 billion in annual economic gains to consumers. Learn more here.

And so, with the FAA reauthorization process underway and a September 30 authorization deadline looming, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) continues to urge both House and Senate leaders to support current Open Skies agreements because they open markets, promote competition and offer more options for manufacturers to access overseas customers. At the same time, manufacturers urge the Senate to reject proposals that would undermine Open Skies agreements and result in disruptions to the current agreements, jeopardizing manufacturers’ access to international aviation networks. That is why manufacturers stand with the Trump administration’s opposition to the so-called “Flag of Convenience” provision (Section 530) of the House-passed FAA Reauthorization Act (H.R. 4). This provision would create new barriers for foreign carriers to enter U.S. airspace beyond the negotiated standards of our current Open Skies agreements. These new barriers would violate our current agreements and invite retaliatory action against U.S. cargo and passenger air carriers operating across the globe and providing manufacturers access to overseas customers. Learn more here.

Manufacturers need products and parts made in the United States to continue to have the guaranteed delivery to overseas customers that is protected by our current Open Skies agreements, and so we have been active on this issue for some time. In 2015, the NAM underscored to the departments of Commerce, State and Transportation that manufacturers in the United States depend on sales overseas to sustain and grow American operations and U.S.-based employment. And in 2017, the NAM reminded the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that Open Skies bilateral aviation agreements are one of several important tools that help ensure manufacturers’ access to global markets and critical services that support manufacturers in the United States. Now, with the Senate considering Open Skies agreements as part of the FAA reauthorization legislation, the NAM is again speaking out by urging Congress to reject false, so-called “Flags of Convenience” amendments and protect manufacturers’ access to international aviation networks and overseas customers that only these agreements can provide.

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