PAUL VERYSER'S STEEL-PARTS company, Stampings Inc., is in big trouble. Tariffs on steel imports, imposed by President George W. Bush in March, have pushed the cost of steel up by more than half on the American spot market, and this has added a whopping 25 percent to the cost of the air-bag, seat-belt and steering-wheel assembly parts his company makes.
The higher costs wouldn't be so bad if the Fraser, Mich.-based company could pass them on to its customers, mainly the big automakers and their top suppliers. But most of these companies refuse to pay, Veryser says. Whenever he dares ask, he's told there are plenty of alternative suppliers overseas, in places such as China and Mexico and Thailand. Labor is a lot cheaper in those countries, and now the steel is, too. "I'm the one who has to eat the extra cost," says Veryser. "And I just can't do it anymore." In September he shut Stamping Inc.'s plant in Harlingen, Texas, and laid off the 15 workers there. Without relief soon, he says, he'll also have to shut the Fraser plant, which his father opened in 1960; that would eliminate another 35 jobs.
Veryser has been a Republican all his voting life, and he says one of the worst things about the tariffs is the sense of betrayal. "Why would a president whom we all supported do something so hurtful to us? ... There has to be another way."
Indeed, there are many …