Walter L. Bell, Ph.D.
I have never visited Detroit, but, after viewing Anthony Bourdain’s account of the city, I was saddened that American Companies had abandoned this city in order to find cheap labor in other parts of the world. This city was responsible for manufacturing our war machines when the Allied Forces were on the brink of collapse during World War II. It would have been unpatriotic and dishonorable to have abandoned this city at that time because the workforce was not only one of the most highly skilled in the United States, but that workforce was highly paid, unionized, and had pensions to support them when they retired. Now that Detroit has filed for bankruptcy, the promises of retirement with dignity has become a source for bailing out years of mismanagement of the city and the lack of patriotism by the companies for relocating the operations where slave labor and sweatshop conditions abound.
During several administrations, both Republican and Democratic, the nation entered into NAFTA, WTO, GATT, IMF, FTAA, MAI alliances with countries all over the world to accomplish two things: 1) Allow corporations to avoid taxation in the United States, and 2) provide corporations with the world’s cheapest labor so that these same corporations could then import those goods back into the United States duty free. President Clinton was one of the most ardent supporters of NAFTA and the other list of Treaties and the demise of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 which separated Banking and Investing institutions that had led to the Great Depression of the 1930’s. In 2008 we entered a period of meltdown with the combined Bank/Investment debacle where we had Banks and Insurance Companies such as AIG which were too big to allow to fail. To make matters worse, when TARP monies were transferred from the Treasury to the Banking/Investment firms, huge bonuses were awarded to the same executives who gambled away the monies entrusted to them in the stock market and in derivatives, a new form of gambling in the stock market. Even our Congress was involved by using insider information to invest in the stock market which could get a private citizen sent to prison. Congress passed a law to prevent the use of insider information to make them wealthy, but I have read that the law has been quietly rescinded.
The move to use monies from pension funds to bail out state and municipal treasuries continues. The Governor of Oregon has lowered the States’ commitment for the funding of pensions in order to use the money to balance the budget. We have individuals in highly paid positions who used outside sources of money to pad their pensions, such as the former Athletic Director of the University of Oregon, which has impacted the State of Oregon Budget. The Governor and his buddies in the Legislature passed this resolution, that has now been challenged and referred to the State Supreme Court.
In almost every instance, it has been the lack of appreciation for highly paid, skilled, and union workers which has led to the demise of our industries in the United States. Even within the United States, the move to avoid union labor has been to move industries from highly unionized states to the South where there are no unions. Most of the foreign car companies who manufacture cars in the United States are located in the South. Boeing, which has its home office in Seattle, when building the Dreamliner had to call in its contracts for parts which were scattered all over the world, because they had no quality control over those parts. This problem led to cost overruns because of the lack of quality control, so they had to use their union labor in Seattle, who were highly skilled and also highly paid to build the Dreamliner. It seems to have escaped their attention that in the long run, highly skilled and highly paid workers, are worth more than unskilled workers, because they are planning to relocate some of the manufacturing to non-union workers in North Carolina where they had poor quality control along with unqualified foreign contracts in the early stages of manufacturing the Dreamliner.
Finally, we need stringent laws to protect the pensions of those retired workers who spent the life in industry and other occupations. We need to have workers who are skilled and loyal, and who can look forward to good pay. Corporations like Walmart do not allow their workers to join unions, but yet Waltmart has asked their own workers to give some of their money for the support of their own employees who cannot make a living wage. Walmart, Inc. needs to be renamed WALSCROOGE, INC. WE need a new form of patriotism and commitment by the National, State, and Local governments to provide for the education and support of workers both union and non-union, so that the ordinary citizens can have a chance at the American Dream where we all succeed together through shared commitment and sacrifice.