U.S. manufacturing jobs, or the lack thereof, is a central concern for many hard-working Americans who toiled for years on factory floors across the country, earning a fair wage with decent benefits that allowed them to support their families.
For too many, these employment opportunities are no longer a reality. Companies have increasingly moved their facilities overseas due to bad trade deals like NAFTA or the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), decimating many communities. That’s why the Teamsters and other unions have been so outspoken in their opposition to the TPP.
Those who have tried to minimize the influence of lousy trade agreements have tried to play up the angle that many of these jobs would have been lost to automation anyway. Many also stress that any future manufacturing growth in the U.S. will demand heavily on fewer workers and more robots. But that is simply not the case.
Economist Susan Houseman, in a published interview with Vice President Joe Biden’s former chief economist Jared Bernstein, told him that automation is centered in computer manufacturing. Meanwhile, she noted overall U.S. manufacturing is still down five percent since the start of the Great Recession.
“Manufacturing employment has not recovered from the Great Recession, and now is 29 percent lower than in 2000,” Houseman said. “That decline is historically unprecedented. And those large-scale job losses are the reason for the focus on manufacturing in the presidential campaign.”
Such declines have been particularly hard felt in communities of color. The Alliance for American Manufacturing said that it was union manufacturing jobs that help grow wealth in the African American community during the last century. But due to industrial flight, minority workers are suffering more than anyone.
It will be challenging to undue past harms due to poor policy decisions. That’s why everyday Americans must rise up to vehemently oppose TPP. This country can’t afford to have more of its jobs shipped overseas and more towns hollowed out due to the loss of employers.
Stand up and let lawmakers know they must vote no if TPP comes before Congress next month!