Angry over work lost to competitors in Asia, several toolmaking groups are planning a march on Washington to take their case to U.S. lawmakers.
The demonstration will be led by a newly formed group, the Manufacturers for Fair Trade Coalition. The march has the support of the American Mold Builders Association of Roselle, Ill., and the National Tooling & Machining Association of Fort Washington, Md. The industry heavyweights differ, though, on what value a march would have to the toolmaking community.
The coalition wants to rally thousands of toolmakers, tooling suppliers and other manufacturers in the U.S. capital during the first quarter of 2003, said Daniel Jepson, executive committee president of the coalition, known as MFT, and a leader with the Tool and Die Summit, a toolmaking group in northwest Pennsylvania.
``It's an educational and awakening message for Washington,'' Jepson said in an Oct. 2 telephone interview. ``We want to see free trade grow in a controlled and rational manner, rather than have shops here suffering and the ones overseas gaining.''
Besides the AMBA, NTMA and the Erie, Pa.-based Tool and Die Summit, the MFT coalition also includes tooling groups in Chicago and Michigan, large-mold-component supplier D-M-E Co. and the Precision Metalforming Association of Independence, Ohio. Jepson said 26 groups have joined the coalition.
AMBA leaders will discuss the march Oct. 10-13 at their fall conference in Asheville, N.C., said AMBA President Scott Harris. A date for the march still must be set.
For those not making the trek to Washington, local rallies could be held the same day in various U.S. cities, Harris said.
``I think we can have a reasonably respectable number of people in Washington numbering in the thousands,'' Harris said. ``But there are as many as two dozen other communities that have the ability to get the same message across.''
Harris said the march may push for incentives for companies to work with U.S. suppliers and for penalties for importing offshore tools, Harris said. But details could depend on the results of an investigation by the U.S. International Trade Commission on the economic health and foreign competitiveness of U.S. toolmakers.
The report is to be presented Oct. 21 to the House Ways and Means Committee.
We're in total support of the march,'' Harris said. ``This can mobilize the industry to take action. It doesn't pay to whine and whimper, and we have to come up with new ideas.''
NTMA also supports the industry effort but is taking a more guarded approach, said NTMA President Matt Coffey. The need is acute for toolmakers to reach legislators, but other means might be more valuable now than a winter march on Washington, he said.
With elections coming in November, toolmakers should be lobbying on a full-time basis, not waiting for a later march to stimulate action, according to Coffey.
``My great hope is that all these mold makers complaining about foreign competition go to town meetings, give campaign contributions and get in the face of elected officials about the issue,'' Coffey said.
``Right now that could have a lot more effect than planning a one-day march.''
Coffey also said a march by several thousand toolmakers might not be heard in Washington, where demonstrations are a weekly occurrence.
``If you don't have 10,000 people show up, it doesn't always count for anything,'' he said.
NTMA plans to release its own action plan for foreign competition once the ITC report is announced, he said. ``Before then, anything is a bit premature,'' he said.
The march is the brainchild of Bill Cermak, a sales engineer with Pro Mold & Die Inc. in Roselle. Cermak had read about a similar march last year by lumber companies that led to both media attention and legislative action.