Because today is Labor Day, I want to make a plea for those who would labor in this country but who can’t. I want to make a plea to bring manufacturing back to America.
We keep saying the jobs of the future are in technology. Many of them are. And factories don’t need as many people as they used to before robotics. But because Americans want to buy cheap, cheap, cheap, we’ve taken bread out of our neighbors’ mouths. And hurt the country in the long run.
Why should a company pay a living American wage to a craftsman or a worker when work can be done in a developing country by someone with no union, no laws protecting workers? I may be thought naive because I’m going to answer, “it’s the right thing to do.”
Our country prospered when our working class prospered. When a “working man” or in many cases a working woman, could support a family with an honest wage. I hear many people blaming the unions. Hogwash. Unions got you a weekend and safe working conditions. Unions make sure you’re compensated if you’re injured at work. Is there corruption in unions? Yes. Is there anywhere humans are that does not have corruption? No. Unions, churches, governments, corporations. It’s humans who are corrupt, not unions.
Since I’ve been back in America, I’ve gone through countless small appliances, clocks. chairs, the list can go on and on. Things break. They just stop working. I’m not saying one country or another is doing shoddy work, and I often think, in my paranoid moments, that companies do it on purpose to up their bottom line. But I know I would rather pay more for something that will last than keep throwing things in the trash. Living in a disposable world is wrong on so many levels.
But I’ve started to look at labels very carefully. I’m buying more things built in Germany, Switzerland and England because I want better quality. Yes, I’m paying more, but in the long run, I am sure I will save money. I would rather buy things made in America in order to support my fellow Americans. But I can not find them!
I’ve said it before, more than once. If a clever person opened a factory here and made kitchen appliances, he or she would make a mint. Yes, I would pay twice as much for an American made toaster. I did it already for an English made one.
Not everybody wants to go to college. Not everybody wants to work in an office. I’ve never worked in a factory, but I’ve worked in a factory lunch counter. It was not pleasant. It was hard work. But it was 9-5 with a regular and good paycheck. The more skilled workers got paid more, which makes sense, but they had jobs. Now the jobs are gone.
Don’t tell me that working for a subpar wage with no health care or retirement benefits at a big box store is less stressful or easier on people.
My late father-in-law was a machinist in a mill. He and my mother-in-law raised nine kids on his paycheck. It was tight. Very tight. He supplemented his income with providing much of his own food with gardening, hunting and fishing, but his children were fed, educated and went on to good lives. But there’s no mill anymore for any of them to work in. The area they live in has been hit hard economically, and not just in this century. Things were getting bleak there in the 80s and they’ve never truly bounced back.
There are only so many tech jobs that can open up.
We’re being sold the story that we live in a service economy. That the jobs have moved overseas and there’s no getting them back. Why not? Prices will go up if people get paid a living wage. Americans have to say well, I will pay $6 for quality that will last instead of $1 at the dollar store. I’m no stranger to dollar stores. But how many times have I thrown out things in a matter of months and then had to replace it? That’s false economy.
I feel like I’m on a soapbox right now. There are so many issues that are part of this problem. But I know there are people who want jobs and we keep telling them: “There are none. Learn a new skill.” We have the factories, shuttered, many being turned into luxury housing for those in the professions. Housing is good. But so are jobs. Why repurpose a factory into housing when we could reopen it and start bringing in jobs?
I’m not an economist, so what the hell do I know? I read, though. I know history, though. We see what happened to Detroit. We’re at a crossroads. Time to start a revolution in thinking about this country. Americans have to wrest America back from corporations and governments, local, state and federal, that pander to their needs.