Reports of American Manufacturing’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

We don't make anything here anymore.

The jobs are gone, and they aren't coming back.

There's no future in manufacturing.

Those are just a few of the myths we here at the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) sadly hear regularly about American manufacturing — and we bet you've heard a few of them, too.  

We spend a lot of time trying to debunk them. Turns out, the team at the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI) Foundation also hears these misguided notions quite a bit, and the organization is out with a new report that does a little myth busting. MAPI focused on four key myths:

  • Myth No. 1: U.S. Manufacturing is in Decline. While there's no doubt that the United States has lost manufacturing jobs in recent years — at least 3.2 million jobs have been outsourced to China since 2001, and between 2000 and 2010 the sector shed 5.7 million jobs — it is a misnomer to say that American manufacturing is on the brink of extinction, as has been portrayed in some media accounts. As MAPI notes, the U.S. remains a "major force in global manufacturing." If the sector was its own economy, it would be the seventh largest in the world. The total manufacturing value chain could be as high as $5.5 trillion. About 17 percent of global manufacturing activity happens in the United States, and America dominates advanced manufacturing. On the job front, nearly 9 percent of the workforce is employed in manufacturing — still a pretty good percentage.
     
  • Myth No. 2: Manufacturing is a Poor Career Choice. You've heard these myths, no doubt. Factory work is dirty and dangerous, and unstable in the long term. But as MAPI highlights, manufacturing actually as a lower rate of job turnover than jobs in nonmanufacturing. Manufacturing jobs pay 16 percent higher than service sector jobs — and a manufacturing job is more likely to include benefits. U.S. manufacturing also employs a large percentage of STEM workers — 37 percent of architecture and engineering workers and 16 percent of all life, physical and social scientists.
  • Myth No. 3: U.S. Manufacturing Isn't Needed. This comes from the idea that since countries like China make most of our apparel and consumer electronics, American manufacturing just isn't needed anymore. This, of course, is wrong — the service sector alone isn't going to keep the economy rolling. Without manufacturing, the U.S. would lack innovation, including things like robots and 3D printers and other technologies. Research and development also would lag — manufacturing R&D is four to five times greater than nonmanufacturing R&D. Even the most ardent free traders also must admit that manufacturing is needed to realize the gains from trade; without the money generated from exports, the U.S. would have a hard time affording the goods we import.
     
  • Myth No. 4: Manufacturing is Unduly Harmful to the Environment. Think of a picture of a factory. You probably imagine smokestacks spewing pollution into the sky. But American manufacturing facilities today operate under strict environmental standards and have worked hard to reduce their carbon footprint. Air pollution emissions from U.S. manufacturing fell by 60 percent from 1990 to 2008, despite an increase in output. 

The entire report is worth checking out — and will help you answer back when you hear folks spreading manufacturing myths.

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Reposted from Think Progress.

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Alliance for American Manufacturing

Union Matters

Failing Bridges Hold Public Hostage

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) gave the public just a few hours’ notice before closing a major bridge in March, citing significant safety concerns.

The West Seattle Bridge functioned as an essential component of  the city’s local and regional transportation network, carrying 125,000 travelers a day while serving Seattle’s critical maritime and freight industries. Closing it was a huge blow to the city and its citizens. 

Yet neither Seattle’s struggle with bridge maintenance nor the inconvenience now facing the city’s motorists is unusual. Decades of neglect left bridges across the country crumbling or near collapse, requiring a massive investment to keep traffic flowing safely.

When they opened it in 1984, officials predicted the West Seattle Bridge would last 75 years.

But in 2013, cracks started appearing in the center span’s box girders, the main horizontal support beams below the roadway. These cracks spread 2 feet in a little more than two weeks, prompting the bridge’s closure.

And it’s still at risk of falling.  

The city set up an emergency alert system so those in the “fall zone” could be quickly evacuated if the bridge deteriorates to the point of collapse.

More than one-third of U.S. bridges similarly need repair work or replacement, a reminder of America’s urgent need to invest in long-ignored infrastructure.

Fixing or replacing America’s bridges wouldn’t just keep Americans moving. It would also provide millions of family-supporting jobs for steel and cement workers, while also boosting the building trades and other industries.

With bridges across the country close to failure and millions unemployed, America needs a major infrastructure campaign now more than ever.

 

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work