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Kaine tours Williamsburg Anheuser-Busch brewery

rarriaza@vagazette.com

Sporting a Budweiser ball cap and safety glasses, Sen. Tim Kaine made his way through the Anheuser-Busch Williamsburg brewery’s production line, where its 600 employees brew more than 40 different brands of beer every day.

He toured the James City County facility Tuesday and held a town hall for its employees, where he listened to their concerns and discussed issues he regularly faces on the floor of Congress that directly impact brewery workers. He said he feels a special connection to the brewery, as his father-in-law Linwood Holton was the state’s governor when the plant first opened in 1972.

“He still remembers those days fondly, and I’m glad to come back, too,” Kaine said.

Following his tour, which was guided by brewery general manager Jeff Scott, Kaine sat with about 60 employees for a town hall discussion. He focused on the importance of vocational education and rising steel and aluminum tariffs.

As a member of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Kaine said he has worked to expand access to career and technical education, which stems back to the time he spent as a teenager working in his father’s welding shop.

“My whole mission on the education committee is to dramatically expand career and technical education from middle school on to make sure people understand that there are all kinds of paths after high school,” he said.

As he fielded questions from the brewery workers, Kaine also touched on the difficulties breweries and other manufacturers across the state face after the Trump administration’s tariff increases on steel and aluminum imports. He said the tariffs take a very real toll on manufacturers such as Anheuser-Busch, which use steel and aluminum to package its beer and export it around the country.

In June, the president announced his administration would enact 25 percent tariffs on steel imports and 10 percent tariffs on aluminum imports from Europe, Mexico and Canada. Kaine said he believes China is a credible threat to the nation’s economy because of regular intellectual property theft, but that Trump’s sanctions against allies to the United States could backfire.

“We’re actually alienating Europe and Canada and other nations by using trade sanctions against them, which means they’re less likely to join with us to put the pressure on China that we need to,” Kaine said. “I think the president has the right motive — China is a concern — but the way that the tariffs are being imposed right now causes us deep worries.”

Kaine said he was glad to see how the brewery has expanded since his last visit 10 years ago and become an important part of the Peninsula economy with an annual payroll of $60 million.

“I wanted to come to understand the new reality of the Williamsburg brewery having been here last about 10 years ago, and they have a highly trained workforce meeting a very complex consumer demand,” he said. “40 brands produced here packaged in infinite varieties of beer cans, kegs, 6-packs, 12-packs, 18-packs and it was interesting to hear the pride in the work but also the challenges they face.”

Sen. Tim Kaine will face Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman and outspoken Donald Trump supporter Corey Stewart in November’s general election.

Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.

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