President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Thursday that directs the federal government to investigate and impose sanctions on companies that manufacture steel products, including those from Mexico.
The move could affect thousands of steel and aluminum manufacturers across the United States and around the world, but it comes as the United Steelworkers union is pushing to hold a nationwide protest against Trump’s immigration policies.
“We’re going to continue to stand up and defend the rights of workers,” said Gary D. Greenstein, the president of the union that represents more than 800,000 steelworkers in the United Sates.
Trump’s order directs federal agencies to investigate steel and steel-making companies in the states of New York, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio, which are among the largest U.S. steel producers.
The executive order is aimed at “promptly identifying and punishing companies that violate our trade agreements and our workers rights,” according to the order.
The president said the order was intended to bring pressure on China to end its production of cheap, unsafe steel products.
Trump signed the executive order in an Oval Office meeting with Steelworkers Local 688 President Ron Shafer, who represents 1,200 workers in New York City.
The order directs the Department of Justice to investigate whether companies are engaged in the “illegal importation, production, transportation, use, distribution or sale of steel” and “unlawful export” of steel products to China, according to an order issued by the Department.
It also directs the Labor Department to launch a probe into whether “illegal labor practices” have “substantially affected” U.A.E. steelworkers.
“What we’re going after is not just the steel, but also the other jobs that depend on steel,” Greenstein said.
“The steel industry’s been devastated by China’s unfair trade practices.”
The president’s order includes a broad definition of “steel” that includes aluminum, stainless steel and other metals used in building construction.
Steelworkers are calling for a boycott of the aluminum industry, which is heavily dependent on the United states for its raw materials.
The union said it would protest in New Jersey, Illinois and Pennsylvania, which have been hit by a rash of recent accidents and fatalities.
“I think it’s important that we come together and say enough is enough,” Green, a retired teacher, said.
The steel industry is also seeking to pressure the Trump administration to take a stronger stance against China, which has taken steps to boost its economy and has been accused of unfair trade.
“As long as China is exporting cheap steel and we’re being told that we’re not, it’s going to be a tough road for the U.N. and the rest of the international community,” Green said.