In 2004, Vaughan-Bassett led a 25-company coalition that called for the anti-dumping order against the Chinese practice of government-subsidized bedroom furniture. That order is set to expire at the end of this month. Congressman Boucher was one of just two congressmen to testify at the Oct. 5 sunset review hearing in hopes of having the legislation renewed for another five years.
“He was the only congressman that came off the campaign trail to come to Washington to testify on our behalf,” said Doug Bassett, Executive Vice-President of Vaughan-Bassett. “There were going to be 15 congressmen testify, but with them out of session, he was the only one that came up and instead of worrying about his job worried about us. We can’t thank him enough for that effort.”
Bassett said the Galax company and Stanley Furniture of Stanleytown and other large bedroom manufacturers are fighting to make sure China continues to be punished for illegal dumping. He said the order has benefited Vaughan-Bassett tremendously over the past five years.
“It has been a great help. Without the order many more jobs would have been lost and many more factories would have been closed. Most (that testified Oct. 5) noted we were recovering prior to the economic depression,” Bassett said. “(The order) went into effect in 2004, and in 2005 and 2006 we were all getting healthy. Then the recession came along, so the order is working. What has caused some of these plant closings recently is not the imports, but the recession. Without the order it would have been even worse.”
Because of changes to the Congressional calendar, Boucher told the International Trade Commission he was representing many other members of the House and Senate. He told the commission that Southwest Virginia has been home to the U.S. wooden bedroom furniture industry since its inception. Vaughan-Bassett Furniture and Bassett Furniture originate in the early 1900s from Boucher’s district.
“Despite a promising beginning and decades of financial success, Virginia has seen more than its share of hardships in the furniture sector, due in large part to the huge influx of cheap Chinese imports, coupled with a hard-hitting recession. Communities throughout my district have been seriously affected,” Boucher said. “Were it not for the antidumping duty order on imports of wooden bedroom furniture from China, the economic circumstance in our furniture producing localities would be much worse than it is.”
Boucher told the commission that Bassett Furniture closed its 323,000-square foot manufacturing facility in Bassett in 2007, taking with it 280 good-paying jobs. Efficiency improvements and investments made by Bassett in the years prior to the plant’s closing weren’t enough to offset low-priced imports from China, even with the anti-dumping order in place, he testified.
Boucher said some American furniture producers have been able to fight back, despite the recession. With the protection of the anti-dumping order, Vaughan-Bassett invested $1 million in 2010 to expand its Galax plant and increase employment in a region much in need of new jobs, Boucher said.
“Vaughan-Bassett now employs more than 700 workers who are manufacturing furniture throughout its facilities, all of which are in the United States. This success is not assured, however,” Boucher said. “I understand that the United States remains the primary export destination for furniture produced in China. The Chinese furniture industry continues to grow and the Chinese government continues to subsidize its producers. If the antidumping duty order were revoked, imports of low-priced Chinese wooden bedroom furniture would surely flood the market and destroy what remains of our U.S. industry. My district would be particularly hard hit.”
Boucher said U.S. trade laws are indispensable tools which should guarantee a level playing field and fair opportunity for American workers.
“Fighting unfair trade and keeping good paying jobs in my district are priorities for me and for my constituents. I know that the workers of companies like Vaughan-Bassett and Bassett can compete against their counterparts anywhere in the world as long as the playing field is level,” Boucher testified. “Without the protections available under current law, these workers and these companies face substantial and lasting harm. I am grateful for the opportunity to express my strong belief that the revocation of the antidumping duty order of wooden bedroom furniture from China would cause grave injury to the U.S. furniture manufacturing industry, and to the economy of my district in Virginia.”
Also testifying before the International Trade Commission was Michigan Congressman John Dingell, the former chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the longest-serving member of the House.