In the fall of 1995, United Steelworkers Secretary-Treasurer Leo Gerard called us together to form a working group to examine the dynamics behind the continuing job loss in our nation's industries. Layoffs have reached 43 million jobs since 1979. Since that first gathering, we have met regularly to identify the source of this downward spiral of good paying jobs. We found that despite record short-term profits of U.S. corporations, working families see their real wages fall as they work harder and more productively. Often they must work at more than one job to make ends meet. While shareholders applaud the rich rewards this system provides to them, we believe that it often undermines companies' long-term growth. Alternatively, we found that the medium-sized firms where a growing proportion of industrial union members work are being passed over by investors for overseas projects. We were outraged at the short-term mentality gripping the financial markets and Corporate America. It has put the $5 trillion in workers' own pension funds in the position of fueling the continuing spiral of corporate mergers and downsizing, and contributing to the loss of our manufacturing base.
We then debated a range of strategies through which unions and their communities could begin to put an end to this hemorrhaging, and take action to put our money in support of long-term, quality jobs. We identified the tremendous opportunities for job growth and investment if workers controlled their own capital. We saw many U.S. unions successfully developing and implementing long-term investment and shareholder policies for their own pension funds. We recognized the dual importance of manufacturing and advanced labor-management relations in the economy. We saw that in Canada, unions, workers and provincial governments had created new investment vehicles which mobilized more than $3 billion to reinvest in regional manufacturing enterprises, and considered how to apply their model in the United States. We saw that if we could forgo the quick-fix, short-term, near-sighted destructive approach that has gripped the financial community, and instead begin to design our own productive investment approaches to fund the jobs and industries of tomorrow, it would signal a significant change in the future of the nation.
We want to take the opportunity of the Industrial Heartland Labor Investment Forum to share our findings. Through the following research and our presentations, we hope to raise public awareness of the impact of disinvestment and misinvestment of workers' money, and to broaden our discussion to the forum participants on how to mobilize worker and community sources of capital to build a long-term plan for our capital that preserves the nation's economic foundation. This is the beginning of a long-term process. We welcome you to join us.
Industrial Heartland Labor Investment Forum Working Group