By Ted Morton
For far too long we’ve seen foreign manufacturers take advantage of cheap labor and watched them make inferior products. This has led to decades of loss to local manufacturing jobs, an economic blow still felt today. To help fight this, recently we saw New York State approve a new provision to require American-made steel and resources for transportation projects. This inspired me to introduce the Made in America Act in Erie County.
This law would amend the county charter to require all county purchases over $10,000 be for goods manufactured in the United States and all services over $10,000 be contracted with entities in the United States. Erie County contracts millions of dollars in goods and services every year from construction materials to IT and software services.
There is absolutely no reason why Erie County shouldn’t purchase these goods from companies right here in the United States. The Made in America Act works to protect our manufacturers and workers while boosting our local economy.
If approved by the county executive, there would be a referendum on the ballot this November for you to ultimately have your say and decide whether it becomes law.
The county executive has shown support for this provision, but raised concerns about foreign corporations or foreign governments filing a lawsuit to stop it.
I’m not only confident it’s legal after discussions with legal counsel, but I don’t think the county should cower from threats of legal action. When the County Legislature previously passed a law banning microbeads in Erie County, we heard similar threats, that a lawsuit would be imminent. The stance of the county at the time was correct: “If someone wants to sue us, bring it on, because Erie County government should fight for laws that protect the public good.”
The Made in America Act does that, and I think Erie County should be willing to stand up and help protect our local manufacturers.
This is an easy way for the county to do its part to help grow the local economy and prevent further loss of critical manufacturing firms like Bethlehem Steel. It’s time to get serious about standing up for our workforce.
Throughout my tenure as a county legislator, I’ve had the opportunity to tour many manufacturers and learn about the great work so many people are doing right here in America. Since it was introduced, I’ve received broad support from local chambers of commerce, manufacturers, unions, community leaders and residents. I ask my colleagues and the county executive to work with me to make this a reality.
Ted Morton, R-Cheektowaga, represents the Eighth District in the Erie County Legislature.