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Thousands march in Granite City to demand "Buy American" provisions

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(KWMU photo)
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Employees of United States Steel dressed as bankers stage a funeral for the middle class

By Rachel Lippmann, KWMU

Granite City, IL – With chants of "What do we want? American jobs!" five thousand union employees and their supporters marched through Granite City Tuesday morning, demanding a "Buy American" provision in any stimulus package that passes Congress.

Steel plants in the Metro East community have laid off thousands of workers since November, when demand for the product plummeted.

Dennis Barker, a 40-year veteran of the United States Steel plant, marched with four other plant workers dressed as bankers and Wall Street tycoons wheeling the coffin of the American middle class. Barker is the only one of the five currently working. United States Steel has laid off more than 1600 employees.

"If we use public funds to build public projects, it should be domestically produced products," he said.

United Steelworkers District Seven president Jim Robinson was dismissive of concerns that "Buy American" provisions would violate trade laws.

"I don't care if they violate our trade agreements," he said. "If I'm going to spend my tax money, I want to spend it on my country, and if the Chinese don't like it, then they can ask the WTO to come over and arrest me."

"Buy American" language is in both the House and Senate versions of the stimulus package, but it's not clear if it will survive the negotiations toward a final bill

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