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The Importance of Advocacy

Doug Kurkul, CEO of AFS

Women and men in the $44 billion U.S. foundry industry are paying close heed to Washington these days—with good reason. Our nation faces troubling supply-chain issues that could be eased with improved public policies. Most foundries and manufacturers of other types are unable to operate at full capacity because of severe worker shortages. Sharp increases in taxes and business fines are on the docket. Inflation is at a 39-year high.

Advocacy is always important—but even more so at times like this. Policy advocacy is one of the six pillars of the American Foundry Society’s (AFS) strategic plan. The Society is operating year-around to advocate for better policies.  

Given the ways in which Washington operates—as I first learned during my 22 years in DC with the Small Business Administration, the Office of the Secretary at the Department of Energy, and the National Association of Manufacturers—achieving sound policy outcomes can be frustratingly slow. If anything, achieving bipartisan consensus has only gotten more difficult in the 15 years since I left the nation’s capital.

Strong Record of Policy Victories

Nevertheless, AFS has achieved critically important victories for foundries. When the pandemic arrived in spring 2020, certain governors initially did not designate metalcasters as an essential industry. AFS worked quickly with our state casting association allies to make the contacts that were needed.

Another victory, this one for larger steel and iron foundries, came in 2020 when after months of AFS advocacy communications work headed by our EHS Division, along with consultants Christian Richter and Jeff Hannapel, EPA concluded that existing foundry maximum achievable control technology provides an ample margin of safety to protect public health; that more stringent standards are not needed; and that there are no new developments that would necessitate revising the control technology rules.

An AFS victory for foundries of all types came when OSHA, drawing on ground-breaking AFS research, legal analysis, and advocacy by Washington Representative Stephanie Salmon, concluded that existing non-HEPA sweepers were sufficient for compliance with the new silica regulation. At an estimated $35,000 per sweeper, every foundry can calculate their own savings from this AFS victory. In total, it saved our industry many millions of dollars. 

This year, an industry coalition including AFS secured infrastructure investment. Many of the highway, bridge, rail, water, wastewater, port, and related projects to be funded will require castings. AFS has advocated for the required use of U.S.-made castings in public projects, and we have made progress in that regard. Our newest AFS survey shows 66% of foundries expect to benefit from the law.

At press time, the Administration was pushing an OSHA emergency standard requiring unvaccinated employees to furnish COVID-free test results every week in order to work. During an October 2021 meeting with OSHA, OMB, and SBA, AFS members Brent Charlton (Metal Technologies) and Jim Procter (McWane) told the agencies the rule doesn’t meet the legal definition of emergency, would exacerbate the worker shortage and supply-chain crisis, and would divert attention from traditional EHS priorities. AFS has urged that foundries be exempt from the standard. 

The best way to support pro-foundry advocacy and to stay abreast of developments is through corporate membership in AFS. Your participation at our Fly-In in Washington DC, June 7-8, is encouraged. We welcome your involvement as we advocate for our industry.   

Click here to view the column in the January 2022 digital edition.