Feb. 25, 1992 — General Motors announced it will close 12 more factories, ending work for 16,000 employees. A total 74,000 men and woman will lose their GM jobs by 1995, as 21 factories cease operation.
Apr 9, 2002 — The Levi Strauss Company, which has closed 24 factories over the past five years, is set to shutter six more. As of this closing, a total of 13,000 workers will have lost their Levi jobs. Among the new shutdowns is a factory in San Francisco, where workers have toiled for Levi Strauss since 1906.
In April 2012, the host of a PBS documentary, “Made in the U.S.A.”, used a stunning graphic that showed a U.S. map with countless clusters of dots that nearly blackened huge regions of our country. Each dot represented the work-sites where 1,000 people labored in a factory that existed in 1992. The dots seemed countless.
Then, with dramatic fanfare, the host brought up a second U.S. map, which showed where each of today’s 1,000 workers-per-dot toil. One third of the dots swept off the screen. Six million jobs, he said, had vanished.
Next, a musical swoon uncovered another U.S. map, in which those shrunken clusters of dots had morphed into three dimensional towers. Instead of showing just where fewer people work, these towers represented the value of the products made at each tower.
We need to shift our thinking of work, the host knowingly proclaimed, to a new paradigm based on hard economic facts. Instead of employees, when we should look at our nation and that map “in terms of production, rather than employment.”
Why? The narrator — with great flare — explains that our shrunken workforce assembles, at fewer work sites, products worth double the value, of what was made by the larger, 1990s, workforce.
“Workforce” being a nondescript term otherwise known as people — mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews — who stand or sit in a factory or office, usually earning far less than the legally-protected, contract-negotiated wages and hours our parents worked.
But by 2012 six million fewer men and women went to work at a regular job, while our population has increased by 59 million since 1992. And now a total of 10.236 million — that’s ten-million two-hundred thirty-six thousand individual adult human beings — are still unable to find a place in the workforce of the United States, the world’s largest economy.
Why? Manufacturers used free trade agreements, the most powerful example of which is NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, to manufacture their products — cars, major home appliances, construction equipment, clothes, televisions, radios, computers, computers, machine and electronic parts and most of our ‘stuff’ — with workers in plants set up “off-shore” in other countries, leaving fewer stable manufacturing jobs in the United States; the kinds of jobs that were the basis of our middle class.
Even telephone assistance positions — ranging from trouble with your cable TV, to figuring out who owns your home mortgage — have been deported from our country to places termed call centers, which were made possible by the electronics we invented.
Companies that stamp their U.S. trademark and brand name on a product get the benefit of that United States name, even though the product they sell could likely be made anywhere in the world.
That leaves the question, where are those people, the ones whose dots have left the map, supposed to work?
In part-time, no-benefits, low-paying jobs? That’s where 2012 job growth took place, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The businesses now experiencing major growth in jobs? Temporary employment agencies, again, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile our national legislature, the Congress, which exists, in part, “to promote the general Welfare” (Constitution of the United States of America) can’t produce any major legislation to expand the economy, because of its obsession to reduce what our government spends, even when that obsession hurts those who can’t find work and those who are in hunger.
The real goal of those who seek to focus on cutting government spending: ensure the continued growth in wealth of banks and major corporations, because they pay for Congressional attention. In the words of U.S. Senator and Assistant Senate Democratic Leader, Dick Durbin, “they, frankly, own the place.”
History shows that same extreme greed and extreme wealth occurred in an earlier era, when a powerful few acquired virtual control of our national government, which gave deference to corporate interests, adopting a policy known as “laissez-faire.”
What kind of moral compass do today’s elected officials have, that they would abandon the startling number of us who still — despite all the talk of the nation’s “recovery” — feel economically insecure about the future?
The factories are gone, and sustainable employment — for men and women who want to join the middle class — is fading. There is no recovery for the average U.S. worker, and jobs continue to be shipped out of the United States
Are we content to do nothing and allow the wealthy to own our government again?
The only power that can overcome money is the vote each person — working or not — casts on Election Day. Yet the power of money seems to have reached down even to the polls, where extremist allies in the state legislatures are seeking to block access to the voting booth from the poor, the elderly, rural residents and those who have been threatened in the past — persons whose voting rights were made weaker by the United States Supreme Court.
Stable work for millions seems out of reach. Who will stand for those who ask only for a chance, a fair-paying job that lets them join, or stay in, the middle class, and for his or her Constitutional right to cast a vote?
And if we can’t regain these basic expectations as citizens, then, who are we?