File photo taken on Dec. 7, 2016 shows people attending a rally calling for "more jobs and better wages" which was promised by Donald J. Trump during his campaign, in Washington D.C., the United States. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu)
As the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative held a hearing Tuesday on the proposed tariffs on 200 billion U.S. dollars of Chinese goods, Americans outlined how the measure would hit American companies and lead to layoffs.
John McCann, who represented MEC Aerial Work Platforms, presented one of the most moving testimonies. As he spoke passionately during his allotted five minutes, trying to persuade the government to drop the plan to slap tariffs on Chinese products essential to his California-based manufacturing company's operations, he also represented the others who had similar pleas.
MEC makes scissor lifts and boom lifts used in construction and maintenance for a U.S. market worth about 2.6 billion dollars. The top two manufacturers are domestic and the third Canadian.
"We are a distant fourth," said McCann, who is responsible for MEC's strategy and planning.
The company manufactures some of its products in China and the remainder is made at its plant in Kerman, California, a town of some 15,000 people. While the town suffers from a worse-than-average crime incidence and unemployment, many locals have created a better life for themselves after finding a job in MEC, he said.
He shared several stories at the hearing. One was about a woman who had never had a full-time job before. But after her husband went to prison, she came to work at MEC. She started by attaching connectors to the ends of wire and cable and rose to become the head of the wire department.
"She proudly tells me she's no longer on welfare, food stamps... and how grateful she is to be able to support her family," McCann said.
Another story was about a young man who was one of five siblings raised in a family of drug abusers. He left home at 14 and lived intermittently with friends or relatives, having no skills or work experience.
"We trained him to operate a forklift. He rose to head a five-man team and now has his own apartment," McCann said.
"The terms used to discuss international trade say nothing about the lives of these men and women who get up every morning to go to work," he told the hearing committee. "Tariffs will cause layoffs. (Lives) will be devastated. The hope and optimism that comes from many of our employees will be gone."
For many employees, MEC is the best job they ever had, he said. "Those are good American jobs in a small rural community."
McCann spoke frankly, telling the hearing that his company does not have the capital needed to replace the production in China. "Without imports we can't compete with the three leading manufacturers," he stressed.
Without products from China, sales would fall and then the company would have to reduce production, he explained. "Cost-cutting and downsizing would result in layoffs."
Tuesday's hearing was also attended by representatives from various other industries, including furniture, wood and home appliance. Many of them emphasized that their partnership with China or their production in China would not be a national security concern.
Some tech companies said they were concerned that the proposed tariffs would undermine their competitiveness.
As for MEC, the technologies used in making its products are 15 years old, McCann said. "There's no technology in these products."
The soft-spoken man was interrupted by the hearing committee after his five minutes ran out.
"Please don't do this," he pleaded. "The cost to our workers is far too high."