Article 43


Sunday, September 05, 2004


This is a sticky post written the day we first appeared on the internet: Welcome to - a memorial to the layed off workers of (PRE SBC MERGER) AT&T, and the disappearing MIDDLE CLASS citizens of America.  It is NOT endorsed or affiliated with AT&T or the CWA in any way.

In addition to INFORMATION, resources and opinion for former AT&T workers DEALING WITH the EFFECTS OF LAYOFF and looking for meaningful employment, some articles here are meant to bring into awareness the LARGER PICTURE of corporate dominance of the UNITED STATES’ political and economic policies which brazenly DISREGARDS, disrespects and EXPLOITS worker, citizen and HUMAN RIGHTS under masks like FREE TRADE and the PATRIOT ACT - resulting in a return to a society of very rich and very poor dominated by a few very rich and powerful - whose voices are anything but - for the people. If left UNCHALLENGED, the self-serving interests of those in control may result in the end of DEMOCRACY, the end of the middle class, irreversible ENVIRONMENTAL damage to the planet, and widespread global poverty brought on by exploitation and supression of the voices of common people EVERYWHERE, while the United States turns into a REINCARNATION of the ROMAN EMPIRE.  Author Thom Hartmann shares some history and outlines some basic steps to return our country to “The People” in his two articles TEN STEPS TO RETURN TO DEMOCRACY and SAVING THE MIDDLE CLASS. I support CERNIG’S idea for a new POLITICAL MOVEMENT - if not a revolution to cleanse our country of the filth ruling it - as we EVOLVE into a GLOBAL community - assuming we learn the THE LESSONS OF OUR TIME and don’t DESTROY CIVILIZATION first.

Everything here can be viewed anonymously.  Inserting or commenting on articles requires a free user account (for former AT&T employees with a real, non throw-away, email address.) Requests to the new user registration page are redirected to BLOGGED DOT COM’S site because most new signups I get are from COMMENT SPAMMERS and their ilk, so if you want to contribute, contact me through email, phone, or some other way.

There’s no third-party scripts here like privacy-eroding WEB COUNTERS, hidden datamining widgets like Pay-Pal donation boxes, or AMAZON DOT COM tracking stuff.  The RSS feeds are pulled by the server, and have no relation to anything you may be doing here.  Standard Apache WEB LOGS of info like IP, and pages visited are rotated every few days, and used internally to check the web server’s performance.  Logs of suspicious activity may be shared with law enforcement, or other ISPs, to deal with troublemakers.  Nothing here is for sale, and donations are not solicited.

If you get an email that claims to be from somebody here that’s anything but a request to post your article, or report suspicious activity (like logs sent to an ISP to report an attack) - it’s SPAM. I do not, and will not - ever - join the junk mail sender community. There are no mechanisms to prevent anyone from forging anyone elses email address in a “from” or “reply-to” mail header. For those of us whose email addresses are fraudently used, the best we can do is filter out NDR REPORTS.

Per U.S.C. COPYRIGHT LAW - TITLE 17, SECTION 107, this not-for-profit site may reproduce copyrighted material not specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such articles will either have a web link to the source, home page, and/or show credit to the author.  If yours is here and you have a problem with that, send me an EMAIL, and I’ll take it off. Stuff I wrote carries a CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE permitting non-commercial sharing. In addition, this site’s owner forbids insertion and injecting data of any kind - especially advertisements - into ours by any person or entity.  Should you see a commercial ad that looks like it’s from here, please report it by sending me a tcpdump and/or screenshot in an EMAIL, then READ UP about how the PARTNERING OF INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS and companies like NEBUAD are DESTROYING INTERNET PRIVACY

Resumes of layed off AT&T workers are posted for free HERE.

Information on the Pension Class Action Lawsuit against AT&T is HERE.  More pension-related articles are HERE.

Links to some Telecom companies’ career pages are HERE.

Click HERE to learn a little about Article 43 and why I loathe the CWA.
Click HERE or HERE to learn what the CWA did when given a chance to do the right thing.
Click HERE for a glimpse of undemocratic and hypocritical CWA practices.
Click HERE for an article on Corporate Unionism.
Click HERE for an article of AFL-CIO’s undemocratic history.

If you’re looking for telco nostalgia, you won’t find it here.  Check out THE CENTRAL OFFICE, BELL SYSTEM MEMORIAL, MUSEUM OF COMMUNICATIONS, TELEPHONE TRIBUTE, and THE READING WORKS websites instead.

This site can disappear anytime if I run out of money to pay for luxuries like food, health care, or internet service.

Discernment of truth is left to the reader - whose encouraged to seek as much information as possible, from as many different sources as possible - and pass them through his/her own filters - before believing anything.

...the Devil is just one man with a plan, but evil, true evil, is a collaboration of men…
- Fox Mulder, X Files

No matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as the truth.
- John F. Kennedy

Today my country, your country and the Earth face a corporate holocaust against human and Earthly rights. I call their efforts a holocaust because when giant corporations wield human rights backed by constitutions and the law (and therefore enforced by police, the courts, and armed forces) and sanctioned by cultural norms, the rights of people, other species and the Earth are annihilated.
- Richard L. Grossman

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.
- Albert Einstein

He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust.
- Aquinas

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
- Bishop Desmond Tutu

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
- Martin Luther King Jr

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
- Benjamin Franklin

If we do not hang together, we will surely hang separately.
- Benjamin Franklin

We must be prepared to make heroic sacrifices for the cause of peace that we make ungrudgingly for the cause of war.
- Albert Einstein

Solidarity has always been key to political and economic advance by working families, and it is key to mastering the politics of globalization.
- Thomas Palley

Update 8/11/07 - As we head into the next depression, fueled by selfish corporate greed, and a corrupt, SOCIOPATHIC US government, MIKE WHITNEY has a solution that makes a lot of sense to me:

The impending credit crisis cant be avoided, but it could be mitigated by taking radical steps to soften the blow. Emergency changes to the federal tax code could put more money in the hands of maxed-out consumers and keep the economy sputtering along while efforts are made to curtail the ruinous trade deficit. We should eliminate the Social Security tax for any couple making under $60, 000 per year and restore the 1953 tax-brackets for Americans highest earners so that the upper 1%-- who have benefited the most from the years of prosperity---will be required to pay 93% of all earnings above the first $1 million income. At the same time, corporate profits should be taxed at a flat 35%, while capital gains should be locked in at 35%. No loopholes. No exceptions.

Congress should initiate a program of incentives for reopening American factories and provide generous subsidies to rebuild US manufacturing. The emphasis should be on reestablishing a competitive market for US exports while developing the new technologies which will address the imminent problems of environmental degradation, global warming, peak oil, overpopulation, resource scarcity, disease and food production. Off-shoring of American jobs should be penalized by tariffs levied against the offending industries.

The oil and natural gas industries should be nationalized with the profits earmarked for vocational training, free college tuition, universal health care and improvements to then nations infrastructure.

Posted by Admin on 09/05/04 •

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Friday, November 13, 2015


Loneliness, layoff and loss of hope.  For the long-term unmemployed, it’s a downward spiral all tied together.

The deadly truth about loneliness

By Michelle H Lim, Lecturer and Clinical Psychologist, Swinburne University of Technology
The Conversation
November 8, 2015

Almost all of us have experienced loneliness at some point. It is the pain we have felt following a breakup, perhaps the loss of a loved one, or a move away from home. We are vulnerable to feeling lonely at any point in our lives.

Loneliness is commonly used to describe a negative emotional state experienced when there is a difference between the relationships one wishes to have and those one perceives one has.

The unpleasant feelings of loneliness are subjective; researchers have found loneliness is not about the amount of time one spends with other people or alone. It is related more to quality of relationships, rather than quantity. A lonely person feels that he or she is not understood by others, and may not think they hold meaningful relationships.

For some people, loneliness may be temporary and easily relieved (such as a close friend moving away, or a spouse returning home after a work trip). For others, loneliness cannot be easily resolved (such as the death of a loved one or the breakup of a marriage) and can persist when one does not have access to people to connect with.

From an evolutionary point of view, our reliance on social groups has ensured our survival as a species. Hence loneliness can be seen as a signal to connect with others. This makes it little different to hunger, thirst or physical pain, which signal the need to eat, drink or seek medical attention.

In affluent modern societies, however, turning off the alarm signals for loneliness has become more difficult than satisfying hunger, thirst or the need to see the doctor. For those who are not surrounded by people who care for them, loneliness can persist.

Researchers have found social isolation is a risk factor for disease and premature death. Findings from a recent review of multiple studies indicated that a lack of social connection poses a similar risk of early death to physical indicators such as obesity.

Loneliness is a risk factor for many physical health difficulties, from fragmented sleep and dementia to lower cardiovascular output.

Some individuals may also be biologically vulnerable to feeling lonely. Evidence from twin studies found that loneliness may be partly heritable.

Multiple studies have focused on how loneliness can be a result of certain gene types combined with particular social or environmental factors (such as parental support).

Loneliness has largely been ignored as a condition of concern in mental health. Researchers have yet to fully understand the extent of how loneliness affects mental health. Most studies of loneliness and mental health have focused solely on how loneliness relates to depression.

Although loneliness and depression are partly related, they are different. Loneliness refers specifically to negative feelings about the social world, whereas depression refers to a more general set of negative feelings.

In a study that measured loneliness in older adults over a five-year period, loneliness predicted depression, but the reverse was not true.
Addressing loneliness

Loneliness may be mistaken as a depressive symptom, or perhaps it is assumed that loneliness will go away once depressive symptoms are addressed. Generally, lonelyӔ people are encouraged to join a group or make a new friend, on the assumption that loneliness will then simply go away.

While creating opportunities to connect with others provides a platform for social interaction, relieving the social pain is not so straightforward. Lonely people can have misgivings about social situations and as a result show rejecting behaviours. These can be misconstrued as unfriendliness, and people around the lonely person respond accordingly. This is how loneliness can become a persistent cycle.

A study examined the effectiveness of different types of treatments aimed at addressing loneliness. The results indicated that treatments that focused on changing negative thinking about others were more effective than those that provided opportunities for social interaction.

Another promising way to tackle loneliness is to improve the quality of our relationships, specifically by building intimacy with those around us. Using a positive psychology approach that focuses on increasing positive emotions within relationships or increasing social behaviours may encourage deeper and more meaningful connections with others.

Indeed, even individuals who have been diagnosed with serious mental illness have reported improvements in their well-being and relationships after sharing positive emotions and doing more positive activities with others. However, research using a positive psychology approach to loneliness remains in its infancy.

We continue to underestimate the lethality of loneliness as a serious public health issue. Contemporary tools such as social media, while seeming to promote social connection, favour brief interactions with many acquaintances over the development of fewer but more meaningful relationships. In this climate, the challenge is to address loneliness and focus on building significant bonds with those around us.

The growing scientific evidence highlighting the negative consequences of loneliness for physical and mental health can no longer be ignored.


Posted by Elvis on 11/13/15 •
Section Dealing with Layoff • Section Personal
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Sunday, November 08, 2015

Older Workers Find a Way Back In

After Years Out of a Job, Older Workers Find a Way Back In

By Harriet Edleson
NY Times
November 6, 2015

After five years of being unemployed or underemployed, Rosanna Horton, 55, is back where she wants to be: working full time.

In July 2007, Ms. Horton left her job at the University of California, Irvine, and moved north to San Francisco to take care of her mother and finish her dissertation. She sold her condominium, intending to live off the proceeds. She figured she would have no problem going back to work in a better position.

A year and a half later, she had completed her dissertation and received her doctoral degree in education. But the job market was a disaster.

Even with her new doctorate in hand, she found nothing suitable, setting in motion an unexpected downward spiral. At times, Ms. Horton, said she was sofa “surfing,” or sleeping on a relatives or friend’s couch.

It put you in a position of thinking, “I should not have left my job,” she said. “I am the kind of person who thinks things happen and you take responsibility and you move on.”

Ms. Horton barely scraped by, she said, making it through a long period without much income only with the help of a very small “circle” of family and friends. She worked in unpaid fellowships, temporary and contract positions before finally turning, in September 2013, to the San Francisco Jewish Vocational Service, an organization that helps people build skills and find jobs.

The recession was over, but it was still a challenge to find a decent job in a rapidly transforming economy. In what she calls her “aha!” moment, Ms. Horton decided to take her degrees off her resume all of them - so as not to be perceived as overqualified, and to get her “foot in the door.”

At the beginning of 2014, she was hired as manager of radiology and biomedical imaging at the University of California, San Francisco, where she has been working ever since. She is making more money now than she was when she left her job in 2007. “What better way to end your career than doing something you care about and can affect others in a positive way?” she said. Her goal now? “Im working till I’m 70.”

Long-term unemployment ԓis a challenging and often hidden problem, said Abby Snay, executive director of the San Francisco Jewish Vocational Service, which is part of a larger network, the International Association of Jewish Vocational Services.

In the economic downturn that began in late 2007 and persisted through the middle of 2009, millions of people in their 50s and 60s were laid off, bought out, downsized or otherwise left without a steady paycheck. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, in a report titled, ԓHow Will Older Workers Who Lose Their Jobs During the Great Recession Fare in the Long Run? found that the recession hit many more workers over 50 compared with previous downturns.

“By 2012, many of these people were still out of work,” said Matthew S. Rutledge, a labor economist at the Center for Retirement Research and a co-author of the paper. “It was really difficult for them to get back in,” he said. “It didn’t matter if they had retired or were laid off.”

The stock market decline and the collapse of the housing market also took a huge toll on the financial resources of older Americans. For those without jobs, that put even more pressure on them to return to the work force and impelled many to keep working well past their original target for retirement.

One result is that the work force is growing older. According to Andrew G. Biggs, an American Enterprise Institute resident scholar and a former top official at the Social Security Administration, there are 3.9 million more workers ages 60 to 64 today than in 2005, the last full year before the beginning of the economic slowdown. By comparison, he noted in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, there are fewer Americans ages 20 to 55 working today than in 2005.

For older Americans, paths to returning to full-time work vary. Some go into consulting, others seek specialized knowledge and new contacts by working as a volunteer. Still others resume their education through courses online or at a for-profit or community college, while some enroll in professional association courses. Many decide to start a business.

The biggest challenge for those seeking a new job after an extended period of unemployment is updating their skills for the current workplace.

“If you have been laid off or retired for a couple of years, skill sets may have moved on quite rapidly without you,” said Mark Schmit, executive director of the SHRM Foundation, a research affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management. “This puts you at a disadvantage to the people who are working, including peers who are the same age.”

Rich Feller is a professor of counseling and career development at Colorado State University, past president of the National Career Development Association and a thought leader with AARP Life Reimagined. Dr. Feller said a key credential for returning to the work force is the ability to documentyour technology skills. “If you can,” he said,” employers will overlook your age.”

He suggests community college or online courses as a way to master new skills.

The popular belief that younger workers are more productive than older workers is largely a myth,Ӕ Mr. Schmit said. The only evidence we have of that is in physical labor. ItӒs absolutely true that older people can learn and are motivated to learn just as younger people are.

Rick Dottermusch, 58, began taking courses at Montgomery College, at first as a ԓdiversion until he found his next job. Five months ago, he began working in web development at a technology company in the Washington area, moving out of sales, his job for 30 years.

ԓThe students whether high school graduates or those with a masterגs are looking for current skills and theyגre willing to spend their time taking courses if they are courses aligned with the market, with what employers need, said Steve Greenfield, dean of work force development and continuing education at Montgomery College, a community college outside Washington. ԓWe do labor market research before we even run a class.

But just getting the training is not enough. ԓNetworking is an important part of a job search, Mr. Dottermusch said. ԓIf you know someone who can provide an entree, anyone who can tell you more about the company, if nothing else pick their brain what is the best way to approach that company?ה

And those seeking a change in the type of work they do must be prepared to lower their expectations, at least initially. “If you have retrained for a new career and learned a new skill, expect to start at a lower level, lower pay grade,” Mr. Schmit said.

For Dave Gustafson, 61, moving from working as an employee for 30 years to working as a real estate broker on a commission-only basis has been taxing. “It takes a certain amount of courage,” he said.

He took a five-week class to prepare for the real estate brokers exam in Colorado, passed it in late July and joined a regional real estate firm.

Even though he had worked in sales in the past, he found that he had to throw away the habits of a lifetime to learn the techniques the new company uses.

His advice for others starting on a new career path?

“Be pliable.”


Posted by Elvis on 11/08/15 •
Section Job Hunt
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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Everything Doesn’t Happen For A Reason

By Tim Lawrence
The Adbersary Within
October 20, 2015

I emerge from this conversation dumbfounded. I’ve seen this a million times before, but it still gets me every time.

Im listening to a man tell a story. A woman he knows was in a devastating car accident; her life shattered in an instant. She now lives in a state of near-permanent pain; a paraplegic; many of her hopes stolen.

He tells of how she had been a mess before the accident, but that the tragedy had engendered positive changes in her life. That she was, as a result of this devastation, living a wonderful life.

And then he utters the words. The words that are responsible for nothing less than emotional, spiritual and psychological violence:

Everything happens for a reason. That this was something that had to happen in order for her to grow.

That’s the kind of bullshit that destroys lives. And it is categorically untrue.

It is amazing to meafter all these years working with people in pain - that so many of these myths persist. The myths that are nothing more than platitudes cloaked as sophistication. The myths that preclude us from doing the one and only thing we must do when our lives are turned upside down: grieve.

You know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve heard these countless times. You’ve probably even uttered them a few times yourself. And every single one of them needs to be annihilated.

Let me be crystal clear: if you’ve faced a tragedy and someone tells you in any way, shape or form that your tragedy was meant to be, that it happened for a reason, that it will make you a better person, or that taking responsibility for it will fix it, you have every right to remove them from your life.

Grief is brutally painful. Grief does not only occur when someone dies. When relationships fall apart, you grieve. When opportunities are shattered, you grieve. When dreams die, you grieve. When illnesses wreck you, you grieve.

So Im going to repeat a few words I’ve uttered countless times; words so powerful and honest they tear at the hubris of every jackass who participates in the debasing of the grieving:

Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.

These words come from my dear friend Megan Devine, one of the only writers in the field of loss and trauma I endorse. These words are so poignant because they aim right at the pathetic platitudes our culture has come to embody on a increasingly hopeless level. Losing a child cannot be fixed. Being diagnosed with a debilitating illness cannot be fixed. Facing the betrayal of your closest confidante cannot be fixed.

They can only be carried.

I hate to break it to you, but although devastation can lead to growth, it often doesn’t. The reality is that it often destroys lives. And the real calamity is that this happens precisely because we’ve replaced grieving with advice. With platitudes. With our absence. 

I now live an extraordinary life. I’ve been deeply blessed by the opportunities I’ve had and the radically unconventional life I’ve built for myself. Yet even with that said, I’m hardly being facetious when I say that loss has not in and of itself made me a better person. In fact, in many ways it’s hardened me.

While so much loss has made me acutely aware and empathetic of the pains of others, it has made me more insular and predisposed to hide. I have a more cynical view of human nature, and a greater impatience with those who are unfamiliar with what loss does to people.

Above all, I’ve been left with a pervasive survivors guilt that has haunted me all my life. This guilt is really the genesis of my hiding, self-sabotage and brokenness.

In short, my pain has never been eradicated, I’ve just learned to channel it into my work with others. I consider it a great privilege to work with others in pain, but to say that my losses somehow had to happen in order for my gifts to grow would be to trample on the memories of all those I lost too young; all those who suffered needlessly, and all those who faced the same trials I did early in life, but who did not make it.

I’m simply not going to do that. I’m not going to construct some delusional narrative fallacy for myself so that I can feel better about being alive. I’m not going to assume that God ordained me for life instead of all the others so that I could do what I do now. And I’m certainly not going to pretend that I’ve made it through simply because I was strong enough; that I became “successful” because I “took responsibility.”

There’s a lot of “take responsibility” platitudes in the personal development space, and they are largely nonsense. People tell others to take responsibility when they dont want to understand.

Because understanding is harder than posturing. Telling someone to ғtake responsibility for their loss is a form of benevolent masturbation. ItԒs the inverse of inspirational porn: its sanctimonious porn.

Personal responsibility implies that thereҒs something to take responsibility for. You dont take responsibility for being raped or losing your child. You take responsibility for how you choose to live in the wake of the horrors that confront you, but you don’t choose whether you grieve. We’re not that smart or powerful. When hell visits us, we don’t get to escape grieving.

This is why all the platitudes and fixes and posturing are so dangerous: in unleashing them upon those we claim to love, we deny them the right to grieve.

In so doing, we deny them the right to be human. We steal a bit of their freedom precisely when they’re standing at the intersection of their greatest fragility and despair.

No one - and I mean no one - has that authority. Though we claim it all the time.

The irony is that the only thing that even can be “responsible” amidst loss is grieving.

So if anyone tells you some form of get over it, move on, or rise above, you can let them go.

If anyone avoids you amidst loss, or pretends like it didnגt happen, or disappears from your life, you can let them go.

If anyone tells you that all is not lost, that it happened for a reason, that youll become better as a result of your grief, you can let them go.

Let me reiterate: all of those platitudes are bullshit.

You are not responsible to those who try to shove them down your throat. You can let them go.

I’m not saying you should. That is up to you, and only up to you. It isn’t an easy decision to make and should be made carefully. But I want you to understand that you can.

I’ve grieved many times in my life. I’ve been overwhelmed with shame and self-hatred so strong its nearly killed me.

The ones who helped - the only ones who helped - were THOSE WHO WERE THERE. And said nothing.

In that nothingness, they did everything.

I am here - I have lived - because they chose to love me. They loved me in their silence, in their willingness to suffer with me, alongside me, and through me. They loved me in their desire to be as uncomfortable, as destroyed, as I was, if only for a week, an hour, even just a few minutes.

Most people have no idea how utterly powerful this is.

Are there ways to find “healing” amidst devastation? Yes. Can one be “transformed” by the hell life thrusts upon them? Absolutely. But it does not happen if one is not permitted to grieve. Because grief itself is not an obstacle.

The obstacles come later. The choices as to how to live; how to carry what we have lost; how to weave a new mosaic for ourselves? Those come in the wake of grief. It cannot be any other way.

Grief is woven into the fabric of the human experience. If it is not permitted to occur, its absence pillages everything that remains: the fragile, vulnerable shell you might become in the face of catastrophe.

Yet our culture has treated grief as a problem to be solved, an illness to be healed, or both. In the process, we’ve done everything we can to avoid, ignore, or transform grief. As a result, when you’re faced with tragedy you usually find that you’re no longer surrounded by people, you’re surrounded by platitudes.

What to Offer Instead

When a person is devastated by grief, the last thing they need is advice. Their world has been shattered. This means that the act of inviting someone - anyone - into their world is an act of great risk. To try and fix or rationalize or wash away their pain only deepens their terror.

Instead, the most powerful thing you can do is acknowledge. Literally say the words:

I acknowledge your pain. I am here with you.

Note that I said with you, not for you. For implies that you’re going to do something. That is not for you to enact. But to stand with your loved one, to suffer with them, to listen to them, to do everything but something is incredibly powerful.

There is no greater act than acknowledgment. And acknowledgment requires no training, no special skills, no expertise. It only requires the willingness to be present with a wounded soul, and to stay present, as long as is necessary.

Be there. Only be there. Do not leave when you feel uncomfortable or when you feel like you’re not doing anything. In fact, it is when you feel uncomfortable and like you’re not doing anything that you must stay.

Because it is in those places - in the shadows of horror - we rarely allow ourselves to enterwhere the beginnings of healing are found. This healing is found when we have others who are willing to enter that space alongside us. Every grieving person on earth needs these people.

Thus I beg you, I plead with you, to be one of these people.

You are more needed than you will ever know.

And when you find yourself in need of those people, find them. I guarantee they are there.

Everyone else can go.


Posted by Elvis on 10/27/15 •
Section Spiritual Diversions
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Good Jobs Aren’t Coming Back

‘Good’ Jobs Aren’t Coming Back

By Alana Semuels
The Atlantic
Oct 26, 2015

In the last several years some American companies have moved their operations back to the states, but the resulting factory work isn’t providing the prosperity and security that such work once did.

The hulking General Motors factory in this town south of Nashville undermines the complaints by politicians left and right that America doesnt make things anymore.

A year ago, GM announced it was moving production of its best-selling vehicle, the Cadillac SRX, from Mexico to this plant in Tennessee. Today 3,000 people work on this 6.9 million square-foot campus, and more are being hired.

GM is one of the hundreds of companies, big and small, that have moved manufacturing back to the United States from overseas. Outsourcing decimated American manufacturing in the 1980s and 1990s, erasing nearly six million jobs between 1989 and 2009.

But the number of manufacturing jobs has started to slowly grow again, and about 700,000 jobs have been added since 2010. “Onshoring,| as it’s called, is at this stage delivering just a trickle of new jobs, but states such as Tennessee are offering companies generous incentives to try and speed up the process, luring some big-name companies. Whirlpool in 2013 said it was moving production of commercial washing machines from Mexico to the U.S. The company that makes Otis elevators announced in 2012 that it would move production from Mexico to South Carolina. Caterpillar moved some heavy-equipment manufacturing back to the U.S.

But these are not your fathers manufacturing jobs. Many of the companies are locating their new plants in right-to-work states where it’s less likely their workers will join a union, and the prevailing wages are far lower.

In fact, nationally, the average wages of production and non-supervisory employees in manufacturing are lower than they were in 1985, when adjusted for inflation. In September, those employees made an average $8.63 an hour, in 1982 to 1984 dollars, while they made an average of $8.80 an hour in 1985, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

These are not your fathers manufacturing jobs.

“We’ve not seen the wage growth that we would love to see,” said Jan McKeel, the executive director of the South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance, which works to train people at local career centers and has prepared the Tennessee workforce for the new jobs in this economy. I think we sort of mirror the national statistics youӒre probably seeing in some areas, that were in wages equal to the early ‘90s.

Onshoring is generally viewed as a positive turn, a corrective to the job losses of the past 20 years. Towns that lost thousands of jobs after NAFTA, where empty factories still stand, could benefit from a manufacturing boom. But the quality of the compensation raises the possibility that in the globalized economy of 2015, manufacturing can no longer provide the standard of living that Americans seek, and America will need to find a different way to restore the middle-class strength it once knew.

* * *

The Spring Hill GM plant is perhaps an example of the best that onshoring can bring. The plant is unionized and the jobsԗwith their profit-sharing perks and high-quality health careare good ones.

This is true even for the plantגs so called second-tier workersӔnew hires who get paid substantially less (topping out at $19.28 an hour) than the long-time workers (at $28 an hour), in a system the union agreed to during negotiations in 2007.

Crystal Conklin had lived paycheck to paycheck, working odd jobs in retail office work, before she was hired as a second-tier worker at the Spring Hill plant a few years ago. Thanks to her $18 an hour wages and subsidized health insurance, she was able to save up enough to buy a car last year, and also bought a house. She wants her 17-year-old son to start working at Spring Hill while he goes to community college.

דWorking at the plant has just allowed me to come out of this hole that I was in, in life, going absolutely nowhere, not advancing in anything, she told me. ԓNow Ive bought a house, I drive a brand-new vehicle.Ҕ

It may be no accident that Spring Hill is one of the American cities where the gap is smallest between the highest-paid and lowest-paid workers, according to NerdWallet; the average household income for the top 20 percent of workers is $157,191, while the average household income for the bottom 20 percent is $26,735; the middle 20 percent made $74,214. Though those differences may seem big, theyre among the smallest in the nation; thanks in part to the union, there isnҒt as much income inequality as in other U.S. cities and towns.

But not all American manufacturing jobs can provide the sort of security that Conklin achieved.

One man, who works for parts supplier Magnetti Marelli, which opened its first lighting-production plant in Tennessee in 2013, told me that employees are required to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week. For this, they earn $12 an hour. The man, who didnt want his name used for fear of retribution from the company, said the job has scarred his hands because he has to work quickly with wire harnesses, but that he canҒt quit because he has a family to support.

The labor laws in the United States ought to stand up and say you canӒt do this to a human being, he told me.

A spokesman for Magnetti Marelli, which is owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, said that the schedule is related to a ramp-up phase ahead of new-product launches.

Magnetti Marelli, like most manufacturing plants in the South, is not unionized. And those who work at such plants likely wonԒt see the sort of mobility that Conklin has experienced. The compensation for these jobs is not on step with todays economy: Wages for workers at non-union automotive plants have fallen 14 percent from 2003 to 2013, when adjusted for inflation, according to the National Employment Law Project.

* * *

There are many reasons for companies to move manufacturing back to the U.S. Wages are rising in China, and many companies find it difficult to control the quality of goods made there. It takes a long time to make something overseas and then ship it back to the U.S, so locating in the U.S. can speed up production. In the U.S., companies can make small batches of goods, test consumer demand, and quickly adjust accordingly.

Darius Mir grew his business 9to5 Seating, which makes office chairs, by moving manufacturing from California to China in the early 2000s. But manufacturing in China became increasingly challenging. The global slowdown shuttered dozens of plants in China, and some skilled workers went home to their villages, Mir told me, so that the company had trouble finding good employees. WhatҒs more, as China devalued its currency, 9to5 Seating had to spend more on wages because of the unfavorable exchange rate, making it less cost-efficient to produce goods in China.

Looking for solutions, Mir did some research and realized that if he could locate a plant somewhere in the central U.S., where he could ship goods to customers in a day, and if he could automate some jobs to save labor costs, producing chairs in the U.S. could work. Thanks in part to automation, he found, a task or order that would take 22 people in China can be done at the Tennessee plant with five. With the help of generous incentives, the company started manufacturing on 100,0000 square feet in Union City, Tennessee, where Goodyear had closed a massive plant in 2011. Mir is now adding 200,000 square feet of space to ramp up manufacturing in the company. (The U.S. part of the company is called Made In America Seating). He employs 40 people, and hopes to grow to 80 by the end of the year, and 500 within five years.

The average wage, Mir told me, will be $38,000 a year, and unskilled employees will start working at $11 an hour.

A person would be able to without much experience or skills, would be able to start work in the region where we are from $9 to $11 or $12 an hour,Ӕ he told me. We are keeping to the middle of that range.Ӕ

While wages of $12 an hour are much higher than Tennessees minimum wage of $7.25, they represent a significant drop in pay for jobs in manufacturing, which were once a pathway to AmericaҒs middle class. This is the disappointment of 21st-century onshoring: Though some of the jobs coming back to the U.S. require advanced degrees and skills, and are the good jobs pundits predicted would return, many are not.

Today, more than 600,000 manufacturing workers make $9.60 an hour or less, and one in four make $11.91 or less, according to the National Employment Law Project. Manufacturing workers once made more than average U.S. wages, but by 2013, they made 7.7 percent less than the median wage for all occupations. And when adjusted for inflation, wages for manufacturing workers have declined 4.4 percent between 2003 and 2013, according to NELP.

Lower wages are centered in the South, where lax labor laws and an oversupply of workers allow companies to pay less. This is perhaps most evident in the most productive auto plant in the country: a Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, 40 miles west of Spring Hill.

Nissan has made cars in Smyrna since 1983, and the town, and even the county, grew up and prospered around the plant, adding nearly 200,000 residents since the plant opened. But Smyrna suffered during the recession when Nissan, facing huge financial losses, offered buyouts to 6,000 employees in Tennessee and eliminated a night shift. The unemployment rate in Rutherford County reached 11 percent, and did not fall below 7 percent until late 2011.

When Nissan ramped up again after the recession, they hired low-paid temporary workers through agencies such as Yates Services.

Robert Bruhn, 49, was hired by Yates to work at the Smyrna plant three years ago. It was a good job, compared to what he was doing at the time, working for an oven manufacturer for $13 an hour. Yates started him out at $14.50 an hour, although he stood on the line next to people who made $25 or $26 an hour. Other less-skilled Yates employees start out at $12.80 or so, and Yates workers never earn more than $18.50 an hour, he told me. After pushback from workers, Nissan has allowed some workers to transfer to Nissan as part of the Pathway program, though Bruhn told me that the selection of transfers seems random. (He applied a few times before he was finally accepted and transferred in September.)

Still, Bruhn gets less of a bonus and a lower wage than other full-time Nissan employees.

ThereӒs no way to reach the top here, he told me. Josh Clifton, a Nissan spokesman, responded that the use of staffing agencies is ԓstandard practice in the automotive industry, and that Nissan employees in Smyrna receive competitive pay and benefits).

While Nissan will not disclose how many of its workers are temporary, Ed Ensley, a worker who has been at the plant for 30 years, says he thinks only about 30 percent of current full-time workers are Nissan employees. Ensley is a full-time Nissan worker, but he wants to form a union at the plant because heԒs disappointed in how morale and quality have suffered since the increase in temporary workers. This is something hes made clear at the plant, by giving speeches in the lunchroom and by approaching executives from Japan about the need for a union.

So far, he hasnҒt made much progress, even as hes seen the town of Smyrna deteriorate. Some new hires are making less than what he made in 1982, Ensley told me. Along the main drag of Smyrna, thereҒs been an uptick in payday-loan stores, and Nissan recently instituted a cell-phone lot for people picking up family members from work; Ensley suspects the change is because so many employees can no longer afford to be two-car families.

Meanwhile, the Smyrna plant is becoming the most productive in the nation, and last year produced 648,000 cars. Nissan made $1.57 billion in the first quarter of this year, a 58 percent increase from the previous year.

What are the workers getting from it? TheyӒre getting bad backs and bad shoulders, Ensley told me. ԓThe bosses reap all the rewards and the workers are suffering.

Nissan and other manufacturers who pay low wages may not be able to keep up the practiceԗboth Ensley and the Magnetti Marelli employee told me theres a lot of turnover at the plants, and that many nearby workers now know where to avoid working. Now that GM is hiring, many auto workers may try to move from lower-paying jobs to the union jobs at GM. But not all of them will be able to do so.

I visited the GM plant and saw people waiting, hopeful, for job interviews, and new employees getting trained along a conveyor belt. Such scenes are reason to be optimistic about manufacturing in the U.S. economy. But I also drove down the main streets of Smyrna, which are filled with empty storefronts and check-cashing stores. Whether our new manufacturing towns will look like Spring Hill or Smyrna will depend on the successes of unions in organizing there, and whether local leaders will continue to give big incentives for companies that create bad jobs.

While those factors play out, the return of manufacturing doesnҒt necessarily mean that the middle class is on its way back, too. It may be that most new manufacturing employees in the U.S. will just be added to the ranks of low-paid, overworked Americans trying to get by.


Posted by Elvis on 10/27/15 •
Section Dying America
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