District meetings with Members of Congress can be helpful in pressing case for manufacturing


Cicilline was holding his second “In the District with David” community office hours event at the East Providence Senior Center on Waterman Avenue, meeting with constituents individually or in small groups.

One of the constituents was Ed Metias, president of a local of the United Steelworkers and a machinist at General Cable in Lincoln. With Metias was Daniel Lawson, a field coordinator for the Alliance for American Manufacturing. Together they made up an unusual labor-management alliance, Lawson said, where the steel industry and its unions cooperate on matters of common interest.

They wanted to talk about China, in particular about its trade practices and monetary policies that Lawson said illegally undermine the U.S. steel industry.

The Chinese are accused of undervaluing their currency, making their goods cheaper in the United States and American goods more expensive in China, making for a huge trade deficit for the United States.

The Chinese, Lawson said, are manipulating their currency. The result, he said, is that the Chinese are getting “a false 40-percent discount on shipping goods to our country.” He and Metias wanted Cicilline to do something to support the U.S. steel industry.

All the steel industry wants, he said, is a level playing field.

Cicilline said he’s on the job.

He said he values American manufacturing highly, higher than some who he said have given up on it. There’s a substantial place for U.S. manufacturing despite foreign competition, he said, and “there is no question that manufacturing is a key point” in restoring the U.S. economy. More specifically, Cicilline said he has co-sponsored a half-dozen bills supporting manufacturing and supported “made in America” block grants supporting industry.

Cicilline’s agenda on manufacturing was exactly what the steel industry representatives wanted to hear.

When Cicilline said he has joined the legislative manufacturing caucus, Lawson said: “I was just going to ask you that.”

Lawson indicated he came with an agenda of issues he wanted to bring up with Cicilline, and said, happily, “You’ve covered every point there.”

“Can we be a resource to you?” he asked the congressman.

Lawson also asked for the names of some manufacturers that are succeeding.

“I can give you two right now,” Cicillini responded immediately. He named Hodges Badge Co. Inc., of Portsmouth, which makes awards, trophies, medals and the like, and a tech company that he said makes sonar equipment.

Other constituents raised topics ranging from tangles in the state personnel system to conspiracy theories and problems with college aid.

Connie McGreavy, of Warren, said her son, Miles, faced a ridiculous choice. A political science major at George Washington University, he had to decide whether to wash dishes and keep his financial aid, or take an internship in government and lose it. She said that working in the government doesn’t qualify for work-study.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” agreed Cicilline.

“Unbelievable,” said Cicilline’s director of constituent services, Marisol Garcia.