To say I was surprised to read Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, encouraging Vice President Mike Pence last week to remove Donald Trump from office by invoking the 25th Amendment would be an understatement.
I've met Timmons several times and of course follow NAM on any number of issues impacting manufacturing. More than not, I've questioned NAM's relevance, its connectedness, to a manufacturing sector overwhelmingly composed of small manufacturers that share very little in the spoils of the association's big-company funded work.
NAM is also a political organization, and its politics tilt right. Timmons tacitly acknowledged as much in his statement last week. At times, the organization's conservative posture has hamstrung its ability to speak for a sector busting out along progressive lines. I said as much in a 2015 column, "NAM's love/hate relationship with President Obama reflects industry in transition":
Taken as a whole, [NAM's] well-intentioned if somewhat confusing policy evolution reflects an industry in transition. Manufacturing is changing. It's tech-driven -- digital; it's agile, small business; it's young and lifestyle-driven to suit trends and changing consumer preferences; it's beer and organic food at the same time it's steel and paper, fabricating and welding.
It's changing and NAM and Timmons are trying hard to adapt -- however confusing and disruptive the journey may be.
Yet Timmons wasted no time in breaking from the president. He could have waited. The certainty, the immediacy of NAM's pronouncement, was a surprise. Was it courageous? Maybe. It certainly wasn't easy given Timmons', and NAM's, history.
Today, as I read my past comments about NAM and Timmons, I admit my own perspective has also changed. It's a good time to fess up. In a 2018 column, "NAM's politics shortchange small manufacturers," I argued for "reducing -- not expanding -- import restrictions and tariffs on targeted raw material categories to enhance local and regional supply chains."
Today I'm a proponent of a trade strategy that protects U.S. manufacturers in select industries with whatever means are effective, including tariffs. We require no more evidence of the harmful effects of unfettered globalization, including unreciprocated access to offshore markets, to American companies and workers.
A position that leaves me, again, at odds with NAM. Yet for one week, during these incredible times, all manufacturers can celebrate Jay Timmons and hope that America's preeminent manufacturing association can next time convince a vice president to do the right thing.
Bart Taylor is publisher of CompanyWeek. Reach him at email@example.com.