Labor Day arrives with a lot of talk about job loss in Ohio between 2006 and 2010 and tying it to the U.S. Senate race between Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Ted Strickland.
Some would have you believe the lost jobs were a state-level problem caused by Strickland, who was the governor during most of that period.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Job loss has been going on in Ohio for much longer than those four years, thanks to trade agreements on the federal level.
Ohio lost one of every six factory jobs between July 2000 and October 2003, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. Three areas from Ohio were among the 20 worst-hit places for job loss between that period, according to INC. Magazine. They were: Lima, where jobs had fallen by 22.9 percent; Hamilton-Middletown, where the figure was 18.7 percent; and Toledo at 15.6 percent.
The last 25 years has seen Mexico swiping many of this area’s manufacturers, two of which were the No. 1 employers in their county. Heading south of the border were:
• Huffy Bicycle, which closed its plant in Celina in July 1998. That resulted in 1,600 employees being sent to the unemployment line. Huffy blamed the closure on competitive pressure from Mexico and other countries, basically saying “if you can’t beat them, join them.” It was the largest employer in Mercer County.
• Phillips put 1,800 people out of work in January 2002 when it closed its Ottawa plant and moved production to Gomez Palacio, Mexico. It was the largest employer in Putnam County.
• Milcor locked its doors in Lima in April 2006 and headed to Mexico, putting 245 people out of work. Gone with the approximately $9 million dollar payroll were the tax revenues for our communities. In Mexico, the workers taking these jobs were being paid $5 an hour.
• Air Foil Textron closed and Sundstrand moved out of the country. A local engine line moved to Mexico. The largest manpower line in a local Lima plant making end yokes moved to India.
All of this has been in the name of “global competition.”
Some of our trade partners have children working under laws that allow them to work exorbitant hours under unsafe, slave type working conditions where children are taken out of the home to pay off parent’s debt.
Americans are promised trade agreements will create good paying jobs. The question we may ask is for whom?
Let’s just take Ohio as an example. It has a global economy with some 23 trade deals since the 1980s. There has been more than enough time to see how globalization will help the Buckeye worker. What Ohioans have seen is temporary staff services employing 105,400 workers in 2012 compared to 73,760 in 2009. In June of 2012 the U. S. Department of Labor reported that the nation has 2.7 million temp workers — the highest on record. Benefits and wages for employees have been reduced or in some cases eliminated.
The question becomes: Where’s the beef, or should I say bull.
This isn’t about being an isolationist or a protectionist as some spout out whenever these questions and discussions come up. This is simply about playing on a level playing field with some workplace values we have adopted. On one hand a country cannot claim it is against child labor, slavery, human trafficking, and servitude, and then on the other hand accept it in trade agreements. Politicians say we can’t force other countries to change their policies. The end results are they’re telling us what we will do. You either support slavery and child labor or you reject it. There is no in between.
A study by the Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis reported U.S. Senators beat investment returns generated by the average investors, corporate insiders and hedge funds by large percentages. Thomas Jefferson once wrote “I have the consolation of having added nothing to my private fortune during my public service, and returning with my hands as clean as they are empty.” I wonder how many can say that today?
Gary Frueh has been active in the Democratic party in Allen County as well as organized labor. Email him at [email protected]