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Lucas Kunce Releases Plan To Protect Missouri Jobs And American Industry

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Revitalize The WARN Act, Stop The Closures of Defense-Critical Plants By Foreign Interests, And End The Gutting Of Missouri And America’s Defense Industrial Base

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | 10:00AM, May 3, 2024 | [email protected]

Independence, MO — In response to law-breaking by Swiss-based ARG International AG in its closure of the Mag 7 aluminum smelter in Marston, Missouri, as well as the takeover bid by Japanese-owned Nippon Steel of U.S. Steel, Lucas Kunce has introduced a plan to revitalize the WARN Act and to put an immediate stop to plant closures and foreign takeovers that hurt working families and threaten America’s defense industrial base. Kunce would file this as legislation on his first day in the U.S. Senate, and he’ll work with any president and any members of Congress to move the proposal forward, regardless of party or personal politics.

Lucas Kunce’s Plan To Revitalize The WARN Act, Stop Plant Closures, Protect Workers, And Take Back American Industry:

  • Ban the sale of American companies in strategic industries to any foreign entity.
  • Empower the Department of Labor to investigate claims and enforce the WARN Act in cooperation with workers and union representation, including for ongoing claims.
  • Introduce criminal penalties for violating the WARN Act that can be recommended by the Department of Labor, with penalties that align with existing penalties for wage theft and other crimes under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • Expand WARN Act notification requirements to include all full-time and part-time employees, increase lead time for mass layoff or site closure notice from 60 days to 120 days, and update the statute so the requirements under the law apply to any business that employs 50 or more employees.
  • Modify the bankruptcy code to prioritize back pay above all other claims in bankruptcy proceedings, and to require employers and owners to give workers the first right to buy a company before other sellers are sought.
  • Provide greater access to capital for American-owned businesses and worker organizations to take back ownership of foreign-owned companies in strategic industries.
  • Empower the Department of Labor with the Defense Production Act’s authority to prioritize and allocate resources toward the recruitment, training, placement, and retention of workers in strategic industries, and provide specific direction to pursue a pro-worker retooling of America’s aging primary smelters that retains existing jobs.
  • Give the Defense Department more authority to block private equity takeovers of suppliers and to take ownership of specialized tooling rights to create competition in monopolistic markets with specialized spare part needs, a power it once had.

The closure of the Missouri-based plant has led to the loss of hundreds of jobs and threatened America’s ability to sufficiently produce aluminum, adding to the growing risk posed by offshoring, our country’s aging primary smelters, and America’s diminished defense industrial base. The proposal by Nippon Steel to buy U.S. Steel would likewise put the foreign corporation in control of a fourth of American steel production, while also posing a real threat to union jobs and to national security.

America is less safe and American workers are being left behind because Congress has failed to take comprehensive action. Kunce’s plan would both combat future plant closures and take back the jobs lost to the hollowing out of American industry.

“We’ve got too many elected officials acting like this problem started yesterday,” said Kunce. “For years, our politicians have let foreign interests and Wall Street strip states like Missouri for parts, and it’s now an existential threat to our working families and to our country’s ability to defend itself. Whether it’s steel, aluminum, or any other essential component of our defense supply chains, stopping a single sale or plant closure is not enough. Waiting on Congress to invest in just a handful of sectors at a time isn’t enough either. And we’ve seen what happens when we let Wall Street run the show. We need to make shit in this country again, and that requires bold and aggressive solutions to end the closures, to reshore jobs and production, and put America back in first for these industries. In the Senate, I’ll file legislation to put the interests of workers and national security back in charge of how our country organizes our defense industrial base, and I’ll work with any president or members of Congress, from any party, to get it done. It’s time to invest in America, mobilize workers, and rebuild Missouri.” 

Kunce has spent years highlighting the threat to national security posed by corporate consolidation, the offshoring of production, and the aging infrastructure of America’s defense industrial base. Kunce, a 13-year Marine veteran who continues to serve in the Marine Corps Reserve, has played a leading role in efforts to protect domestic production and reshore industrial capacity, both while serving at the Pentagon and as a leader in antitrust and national security policy. His work on these topics has been published by and featured in The American Conservative, ProMarket, The Hill, and The Labor Tribune.

Read more from Lucas Kunce on this topic:

The American Conservative | June 27, 2019 | By Matt Stoller and Lucas Kunce

Hickey, like many manufacturers, has watched the rise of China with alarm for decades. “Everyone’s upset about the China 2025 plan,” he told TAC, referencing the current Chinese plan causing alarm among national security thinkers in Washington. “Well there was a China 2020 plan, 2016 plan, 2012 plan.” The United States has, for instance, lost much of its fasteners and casting industries, which are key inputs to virtually every industrial product. It has lost much of its capacity in grain oriented flat-rolled electrical steel, a specialized metal required for highly efficient electrical motors. Aluminum that goes into American aircraft carriers now often comes from China.

In 1935, Brigadier General William Mitchell told Congress that the United States didn’t have a single plane that could go against a “first-class power.” “It is a disgraceful situation and is due,” he said, “for one thing, to this pool of patents.” The lack of aerospace capacity reflected a broader industrial problem. Monopolists refused to invest in factories to produce enough steel, aluminum, and magnesium for adequate military readiness, for fear of losing control over prices.

Fortunately, this is fixable. Huawei’s predatory pricing success has shown policymakers all over the world what happens when we don’t protect our vital industrial capacity. Last year, Congress strengthened the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the committee that reviews foreign investment and mergers. The Trump tariffs have begun forcing a long-overdue conversation across the globe about Chinese steel and aluminum overcapacity, and Democrats like Representative Dan Lipinski are focused on reconstituting domestic manufacturing ability.

There are many levers we can use to reorder our national priorities. The Defense Department, along with its new higher budgets, should have more authority to promote competition, break up defense conglomerates, restrict excess defense contractor profits, empower contracting officers to get cost information, and block private equity takeovers of suppliers. Congress could reinstate the authority of the Defense Department to simply take ownership of specialized tooling rights to create competition in monopolistic markets with specialized spare part needs, a power it once had. In the commercial sector, rebuilding the industrial base will require an aggressive national mobilization strategy. This means aggressive investment by government to rebuild manufacturing capacity, selective tariffs to protect against Chinese or foreign predation, regulation to stop financial predation by Wall Street, and anti-monopoly enforcement to block the exploitation of market power.

Policymakers must recognize that industrial capacity is a public good and short-term actors on Wall Street have become a serious national security vulnerability. While private businesses are essential to our common defense, the public sector must once again structure how we organize our national defense and protect our defense industrial base from predatory finance. For several decades, Wall Street has been organizing not just the financing of defense contractors, but the capabilities of our very defense posture. That experiment has been a failure. It is time to wake up, before it’s too late.  

ProMarket | August 7, 2020 | By Lucas Kunce

In the 1940s, when Alcoa held a monopoly on aluminum production in America, our country was unable to produce enough aluminum to keep up with the Germans and Japanese on the war front. Recognizing that this was because Alcoa was acting in its own self-interest to extract monopoly profits from its production, the federal government broke open the monopoly by creating competition in the form of other companies, including Reynolds, which is still a household name for its post-war product, Reynolds Wrap. The aluminum boom resulting from this action was a contributing factor in arming our troops to win the war. 

The Labor Tribune | January 1, 2024 | By Lucas Kunce

The most absurd thing about a giant Japanese corporation like Nippon Steel trying to buy U.S. Steel is that our tax dollars helped make it happen. Each year, we spend billions of dollars arming and defending Japan. The Japanese government uses much of those defense savings to heavily subsidize Japanese corporations in strategic industries. Now one of those heavily subsidized Japanese corporations is trying to take control of 1/4 of American steel production, putting union jobs and national security at risk. This will ensure a generation of steel industry profits are shipped overseas too. This $14 billion deal is only helping one group of Americans, and it’s not working people. And our country’s elite shareholder class isn’t just letting this deal move forward — they’re getting a 40%  premium from it!

Wall Street and elites in corporate boardrooms around the globe have taken advantage of American workers and America’s dedication to democracy. It needs to end — that’s why we need legislation that bans the foreign takeover of any strategic industry or American corporations that have received large federal subsidies. And that’s legislation I’ll file in the U.S. Senate.

WATCH >> Lucas Kunce: China ‘strategically captured our entire supply chain’ | The Hill Rising