Blue-collar jobs disappearing?

Jon Flanders 72763.2240 at compuserve.com
Wed Feb 28 22:42:34 MST 1996


 >> Paul Krugman of Stanford and
 Robert Lawrence of Harvard suggest, on the basis of extensive data,
 that the 'concern, widely voiced during the 1950s and 1960s, that
 industrial workers would lose their jobs because of automation, is
 closer to the truth than the current preoccupation with a presumed loss
 of manufacturing jobs because of foreign competition. <<


  This is indeed a trend to be watched. A point I would raise though is to
remember that we have to look at the industrial working class globally. When
you pull back for that view, I would say that "phenomenal growth" would be the
correct characterization. If I am wrong, maybe someone can come up with
figures.

  Its not so much that jobs are being moved, as that new industrial jobs are
being created wholesale in places like Indonesia and China.

  It seems to me logical that the ruling class in the US would at this point
in time try to reduce the size and influence of the "home working class" as
much as possible. They don't build River Rouge type works any more. The norm
is a prefab plant at the end of some interstate turnout. You have to drive
miles to get there and there is no local community that workers take their
lunch hour in.

 At the same time, we have the news that 250,000 jobs in auto will open up in
the next 10 years or so as the current generation retires. This will be
something to watch! Of course this doesn't change the overall trend.

 Next, we have industries that can't be moved. I work for one, it is called a
railroad. Here the corporations have come up with a good one. They use a legal
loophole to spin off sections of track under new owners who under the law are
"non-railroad entities." Since they are such, the rules about union contracts
do not apply to them. One such entity, RailTex, has bought up more than twenty
shortlines all over the country, booted out the unions and halved the
workforce while reducing pay 20% or more. I was involved in a fight with them
here in the Northeast when they took over the former Central Vermont.

  Last, there are essential industries like aviation, with huge plants like
Boeing in Seattle, where Jim Miller works. While Boeing is spreading work
around the world, you can be sure that the ruling class will make sure that
airplane production continues here. This is a matter of life and death for
them, since airplanes are essential to warfare.

  So the industrial workforce in the US will be reduced as much as possible.
It can never be eliminated, and even with much reduced workforces, can
actually increase in social and economic power.

  This has happened thanks to another streamlining of production, the "just in
time inventory system." Parts for production are not stockpiled, but are built
and shipped on precise schedules, so that money is not tied up in "dead"
capital.

  When an auto, airplane or rail strike hits, the effect is immediate. Plants
all over the world are suddenly pulled up short as the supplies dry up. If the
economy is humming, giants like GM can be rolled over in a day or two. This
happened recently when excessive overtime forced GM workers to strike.

  In the rail strike and lockout of 1991 and 1992, neither was allowed to last
24 hours. Congress went into emergency session, the President was awakened in
the dead of night, and the rail unions were ordered back to work. One of my
co-workers remarked at the time that Bush "feared us more than Saddam
Hussein."

 So despite the reduction of the industrial working class in the advanced
countries, there is no fear of a great loss of social and economic power.

  I know there are people on this l*st with greater economic knowledge than I
have. If there are mistakes in the above analysis, I would like to hear of
them.

 Best, Jon Flanders





  E-mail from: Jonathan E. Flanders, 29-Feb-1996




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