Mayors on Why Manufacturing Matters in the Modern Economy

Cathalijne Adams Intern, Alliance for American Manufacturing

San Francisco once was one of America’s great manufacturing cities, home to factories that made everything from Levi’s jeans to consumer electronics.

But like many cities, San Francisco offshored much of its manufacturing beginning in the 1970s and 1980s. While there are still about 600 manufacturing businesses in San Francisco, there’s no doubt that the landscape has changed as focus has shifted to supporting Silicon Valley over businesses that make stuff.

It’s a different story across the bay in Oakland.

Despite the increasing pressure to abandon industrial land, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf told a Washington audience on Wednesday that she is committed to sustaining the manufacturing and trade industries in her city.

Schaaf appeared alongside Nashville Mayor Megan Barry during a panel discussion held at the Wilson Center that focused on economic development in American cities. Both stressed the importance of promoting local goods and services and developing an educated workforce prepared to enter a variety of fields, including advanced manufacturing, as critical to developing economically successful and diverse cities.

Contrasting San Francisco’s decision to abandon the city’s manufacturing and trade sectors in favor of more housing, Schaaf said that she is committed to sustaining Oakland’s manufacturing legacy as a means of providing access to a wealth of employment opportunities in these industries.

“In the Bay area, land has gotten very valuable. San Francisco used to have a port. Now they have a real estate business. Literally, the Port of San Francisco is a real estate company, and that is because they chose to really get out of the trade and logistics business, and there’s now a lovely baseball park,” she said.

“There’s a lot of condos. There are things other than cranes and ships and boxes,” Schaaf added. “In Oakland, I want to keep the cranes and the ships and the boxes. These are great jobs. They are, again, career and family-sustaining jobs.”

In addition to preserving industrial land, Schaaf has also installed Fab Labs, design spaces with equipment such as 3-D printers and laser cutters, in Oakland’s high schools to reinvigorate vocational education. She intends for these Fab Labs to introduce students to advanced manufacturing skills and inspire them to pursue skilled trade careers, she said.

“Manufacturing is requiring a higher level of education then it used to. I mean, we call it advanced manufacturing, but we are seeing that coming back into Oakland,” Schaaf said. “We have a lot of advanced manufacturing that is growing like gangbusters. So, by putting those Fab Labs into our high schools, it is going to get kids excited about it.”

For Barry, stimulating the development of small local businesses is a means of advancing her mission to promote equity and opportunity — and ensure that Nashville benefits from a vital economy for years to come. 

“Eighty percent of our small businesses are started by folks who not from Nashville and mostly new American, and that is the backbone of what will become our bigger businesses,” Barry said. “Most businesses start small before they get big, so being able to have that pipeline of our future is really critical for us.”

Both mayors said that their cities are experiencing considerable interest from companies outside of Nashville and the United States because of their cities’ flourishing economies. But Schaaf and Barry agreed that they can only continue to see this growth if they continue to support their cities’ local goods and services, including in manufacturing.

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Reposted from AAM

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Alliance for American Manufacturing

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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