Training Can Reset Outlook for Manufacturing Communities

Cathalijne Adams

Cathalijne Adams Researcher, AAM

A recent segment on PBS Newshour explores the implications of automation for workers, particularly the predominately Hispanic population of the Southern California region an hour east of Los Angeles, known as the Inland Empire, where manufacturing and distribution centers dot the landscape.  

In this area, fears that automation will supplant jobs loom large.

Indeed, the prospect of manufacturing job loss should be seen as a threat to the livelihood of not only individual workers, but entire regions, particularly those with communities of color. When family-sustaining manufacturing jobs leave, it is these communities that are often disproportionately impacted by the aftermath though suffering is shared by all workers – all the more reason to fight for infrastructure investment and worker-friendly trade policies.

But there’s more that can be done to help ensure that America’s next generation of workers is ready for the factory of the future.

As we anticipate the integration of robotics into the workplace, we must also support programs that equip workers with advanced manufacturing capabilities. Where these programs are not in place, workers risk missing vital opportunities to build the core skills needed for the factory jobs of the future.

Paul Granillo, president and chief executive officer of Inland Empire Economic Partnership, highlights this concern in an interview for PBS Newshour:

“I think automation is wonderful, and I’m a user of automation. But if it’s only going to be that some regions are going to win and others are going to lose, I do believe that then it does become a moral issue.”

However, partnerships between colleges and companies are creating the programs needed to forestall this.

Featured in the PBS Newshour segment, California Steel Industries and local community colleges have collaborated to develop the Industrial Technical Learning Center, or InTech, in Fontana, Calif.

InTech’s instruction in critical advanced manufacturing fields promises to offer job security as automation integration continues. One InTech student, Erick Martinez comments:

“If I can’t use my manual skills because a robot or an algorithm is going to take my job, there is that uncertainty of, what am I going to do? But then you get exposed to, ‘Hey, we can train you to troubleshoot a lot of these changes that are happening, a lot of things that are replacing your job. Then you can be one step ahead of that.”  

As more advanced manufacturing training programs like that of InTech grow, so too do opportunities to build a better future for all.

After all, there’s no need to fear the robots!

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Reposted from AAM

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Alliance for American Manufacturing

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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A Friendly Reminder

A Friendly Reminder