Beause They Can

by Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

Aerospace workers in Washington State made a clear statement in favor of rising living standards. It’s a rare pause in the middle class decline of the last 30 years.

Members of the Aerospace Machinists union rejected a collective bargaining proposal, full of historic takeaways, by a margin of 2-1.

The employer is Boeing, a premier aerospace employer. Boeing, like many other large employers, uses its impressive political and economic power to extract gains from all of its stakeholders.

In 2003, Boeing extracted over $3.2 billion in tax incentives from the state legislature to “win” production of the new 787 airplane. Within a few years, the incentives were expanded, and modest accountability conditions disappeared from the incentive package. The win turned sour in 2007. Boeing opened a second 787 production line in South Carolina, sending a clear message that $3.2 billion buys less love than anyone thought.

In November 2013, Washington state tax incentive extended the tax incentive, reducing Boeing’s taxes by $8.7 Billion, out to 2040. This is far and away the biggest state tax incentive in American history. Continue reading

Low-wage manufacturing is on the rise

by Laura Clawson

factory-35083_640Traditionally, manufacturing jobs paid well, at least for jobs that didn’t require a college education. They were a foundation of America’s broad middle class. But no more. There’s been an obvious trend in low-wage, non-union manufacturing jobs, and now, the Washington Post rounds up some of the depressing numbers:

U.S. manufacturers have added a half-million new workers since the end of 2009, making the sector one of the few bright spots in an otherwise weak recovery. And yet there were 4 percent fewer union factory workers in 2012 than there were in 2010, according to federal survey data. On balance, all of the job gains in manufacturing have been non-union. […]It used to be that factory jobs paid substantially better than other jobs in the private sector, particularly for workers who didn’t go to college. That’s less true today, especially for non-union workers in the industry, who earn salaries that are about 7 percent lower than similar workers who are represented by a union.

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Trade that Hurts

by Leo Gerard

USW President Leo Gerard

USW President Leo Gerard

“Uncertainty” is the pitchfork that corporations now effectively wield to prod politicians into action. It’s a threat, as in, if Congress doesn’t do this or that, such as avoid the fiscal cliff or raise the debt ceiling, then corporations will suffer the unbearable pain of “uncertainty.”

Uncertainty is really, really bad, business lobbyists lament. It’s a terrible thing to do to corporations, business commentators contend on talk shows.

They’re unconcerned, however, when the American middle class suffers uncertainty. Or when government action shifts uncertainty to the middle class. Trade is the perfect example of that. In 2000, Congress ended China’s uncertainty about trade with the United States by transferring that pain to America’s middle class. It was an excruciating loss of certainty for American workers because over the next seven years, millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs disappeared. That’s trade that hurts.

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A Populace Pink Slimed

by Leo Gerard

USW President Leo Gerard

A trio of governors and a duo of lieutenant governors last week dined on pink slime burgers and pronounced them mouth-wateringly-delicious-and-nutritious as TV cameras rolled on their barbeque in a Nebraska factory that manufactures the stuff.

Shoppers have reacted somewhat differently to pink slime secreted into their hamburger, so much so that three national supermarket chains stopped using it, and an Iowa grocer now offers both slimed and unslimed burger.

The politicians insisted that identifying slimed beef is not necessary, or even wise, because the fabricated-sans-fat- smashed-meat-scraps-seasoned-with-ammonia mixture is more nutritious. It’s so great that announcing its presence on the burger label is unnecessary, the politicians insisted.

The governors and lieutenant governors chose to champion not consumers but slime producers. The reason is obvious. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who organized the slime plant tour and barbeque, got $150,000 in campaign contributions in 2010 from the factory’s founders. Rather than rally to the public, too many politicians prostitute themselves to corporations. Thus, American workers have a government that incongruously rewards corporations that ship jobs overseas. Somewhere the government of the people, by the people, for the people got lost.

Just as in the case of pink slime, the interests of flesh-and-blood people and corporations frequently conflict. In those instances, a government of the people, by the people, for the people should take their side. But a government run by politicians constantly hounding corporate campaign contributions often fails to favor flesh-and-blood people.

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