Posts from Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Century Foundation Unveils Its Federal Agenda to Build a High Wage America

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

The nonprofit Century Foundation officially unveiled its new federal agenda for revitalizing America’s manufacturing communities on Thursday, centered on ways to increase the number of high wage jobs and create a pipeline of qualified workers to fill them.

And the foundation attracted some big names to help them do it.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) were among the keynote speakers at a summit sponsored by the foundation in Washington. Biden and Gillibrand — both of whom are being floated as potential 2020 presidential contenders — noted that too many Americans are stuck working low-paying jobs, and elected leaders haven’t done enough to help them.

“Ordinary Americans can do extraordinary things, if you just give them a chance,” Biden said. “This is not beyond our capacity. There is so much we can do to begin to change things.”

Gillibrand echoed Biden’s remarks.

“We have the hardest working people in the world. We have an ideal, it’s called the American dream,” Gillibrand said. “I can tell you, wherever I travel in my state, people don’t believe the dream is for them anymore…They just want someone fighting for them.”

The Century Foundation’s new agenda serves as a blueprint for doing just that, and manufacturing is at the heart of it. Foundational officials spent the past year meeting with hundreds of people in cities like Cleveland, Chicago, and Pittsburgh to help put their ideas together.

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People Love to Talk About the Skills Gap. But What About the “Productivity-Pay Gap”?

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

A couple of stories caught our eye last week.

First, there’s this piece in the Wall Street Journal on how employers “feel the pinch” because of an “increasingly tight labor market.” There were 650,000 available jobs in the United States in July, the highest level on records back to 2000, according to the article.

The story mirrors what we often hear about the “skills gap” in manufacturing, the idea that there are many advanced manufacturing jobs out there but not enough workers with the know-how to fill them.

Remember that — we’ll come back to it.

We also came across this devastating story in the New York Times on Wednesday about how so many of the jobs out there — especially for workers without a college degree — simply do not pay enough to live on. Here’s an excerpt:

“In recent decades, the nation’s tremendous economic growth has not led to broad social uplift. Economists call it the ‘productivity-pay gap’ — the fact that over the last 40 years, the economy has expanded and corporate profits have risen, but real wages have remained flat… American workers are being shut out of the profits they are helping to generate.”

That NYT piece profiles Vanessa Solivan, a mother-of-three who, when times are good, makes about $1,200 a month as a home health aide. The 33-year-old spent almost three years as part of the “working homeless,” holding down a job but not making enough money to afford a place to live.

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Federal Agencies Spent Over $92 Billion on Foreign Contracts Because of Buy America Loopholes

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) is a longtime proponent of Buy America, which ensures that when the federal government builds new infrastructure or buys new goods, the materials and products purchased are American-made.

It’s commonsense policy, as it reinvests taxpayer money into local communities, supporting job growth and strengthening the economy.

But loopholes have meant that some federal agencies have skirted Buy America — and so Stabenow wanted to find out just how much money is being sent overseas.

Spoiler: It’s a lot.

A new report from Stabenow’s office found that 13 federal agencies used Buy America loopholes to spend more than $92 billion on foreign contracts between 2008 and 2016.

The Defense Department led the way, spending nearly $85 billion on foreign contracts because of loopholes (and spent about $154 billion total on foreign purchases during that same period). The department, unfortunately, has a history of skirting these laws — 81 out of 280 Defense Department contracts were found to not comply with Buy America, a recent audit by the agency’s inspector general found.

And while the Defense Department is certainly the biggest offender, it is hardly alone. Other agencies that used loopholes to spend money on foreign contracts include the State Department, which spent nearly $2.5 billion; the Department of Homeland Security, which spent more than $1.58 billion; and the Treasury Department, which spent more than $510 million.

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China’s Cyber Espionage Continues, and There’s a Big Cost

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

There’s a whole lot going on in D.C. this week, including the mystery over who exactly wrote that op-ed in The New York Times. You know who might know?


O.K., I kid – but maybe not really.

It’s not a secret that China is engaging in massive cyber espionage against the United States, and a new report from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies highlights some of the consequences.

The findings are astounding. China is responsible for 50 to 80 percent of cross-border intellectual property theft worldwide, and more than 90 percent of all cyber-enabled economic espionage in the United States.

All that cyber theft costs the U.S. economy up to $300 billion annually, according to report author Zach Cooper. The damage adds up to more than just dollars and cents:

“Chinese espionage has not only damaged U.S. companies, but has also helped China save on research and development expenses while catching up in several critical industries… Perhaps most worryingly, China is reversing many of the U.S. military’s technical and industrial advantages and creating potential vulnerabilities should a conflict arise.”

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Democratic Senator Calls on President Trump to Keep His Buy America Promise

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

Shortly after taking office, President Trump paid a visit to the headquarters of Snap-on tools in Kenosha, Wis., to talk up his “Buy American, Hire American” campaign pledge.

During that April 2017 trip, Trump endorsed Buy America legislation put forth by Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) that requires the use of American-made steel and iron in government-funded drinking water projects, ensuring that taxpayer money is reinvested in American workers and communities rather than being sent overseas.

And as the saying goes: The North Remembers.

Baldwin wrote to Trump on Monday to remind him of his commitment to the Made in America Water Infrastructure Act – and at a critical time. While Baldwin’s legislation was included as part of the Senate’s version of the water infrastructure bill known as the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), it is not in the House version.

That’s a big concern. The last time Congress took up WRDA in 2016, similar Buy America language was included in the Senate version of the legislation, but Republicans in the House successfully stripped it from the final WRDA bill that became law.

Now there are fears that could happen again – unless Trump steps up. Baldwin writes:

“You need to back up your words with action. I’m proud to have earned your support for my Buy America reform and now is the time to keep your promise to workers in Wisconsin and across this country. I again urge you to make sure that the WRDA legislation that reaches your desk includes a permanent Buy America pledge that requires that our nation’s drinking water infrastructure is built with American workers and American-made materials.”

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Want to Increase the Number of Apprentices? Here’s Where to Start.

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

Tannasia, a newly single mother of four kids, was forced to uproot her family from their home in Texas to Biloxi, Mississippi after severe flooding hit the state.

And that’s when she found herself stuck. Tannasia needed a job, badly. But she couldn’t get a job because she couldn’t afford child care, and she couldn’t afford child care because she didn’t have a job.

But Tannasia caught a break. She came across a flier for the Moore Community House Women in Construction (WinC) program, an eight-week construction pre-apprenticeship program that prepares women for work in advanced manufacturing and construction. Not only does WinC help its participants move on to paid apprenticeship programs (and eventual jobs), it also provides child care assistance.

“This program saved my life, and my kids’ life,” Tannasia said. “I don’t know where we’d be without Women in Construction. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place, and it opened a door for me when I didn’t have any way out.”

There is a lot of talk these days about the need for more apprenticeship programs — and not just because of this whole situation.

Both the public and private sector are looking for ways to prepare America’s workers for the jobs of high-tech jobs of tomorrow, especially in advanced manufacturing. And while here at AAM we believe some of the talk about the “skills gap” has been a bit overstated, there’s no doubt that more must be done to better recruit and prepare people for middle-skill jobs that require education beyond high school (but not a four-year college degree).

The National Skills Coalition has a few ideas on how to do just that.

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ZTE Fight Comes to a Close, At Least for Now

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

President Trump took a break from tweeting about his former reality show costar-turned rogue White House aide on Monday to officially sign the $716 billion defense policy act, which is designed to “counter Chinese aggression and support U.S. military servicemen and women.”

Much of the coverage of the bill’s signing centered around Trump failing to mention Sen. John McCain in his remarks, noteworthy because the legislation is named after the Arizona Republican. But the measure itself proved less controversial, receiving widespread bipartisan support for shifting “U.S. focus away from counter-terrorism to the strategic threats posed by China and Russia.”

Also included in the bill is the conclusion of the latest chapter of the ZTE saga.

You remember ZTE! It’s the Chinese telecommunications firm that is considered a major security threat to the United States. On top of that, ZTE also violated trade sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

When ZTE failed to discipline employees who violated said sanctions, the Commerce Department rightly barred ZTE from importing any U.S. components for seven years, which effectively put the company out of business.

Not surprisingly, China got real mad about all this.

But then surprisingly, Trump shocked a whole lot of people by tweeting that he instructed Commerce to “give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE a way to get back into business, fast.”

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Steelworkers Remind Congress that Real People are at the Heart of the Steel Crisis

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

There’s a whole lot of discussion these days about the Trump administration’s trade policies, particularly when it comes to tariffs.

Criticism of the tariffs dominates much of that debate, but what often gets lost is recognition that workers across the country have long been hurt by China’s unfair trade practices, including the 15,000 steelworkers who found themselves in the unemployment line because of China’s massive unchecked global steel overcapacity.

And those are the people who Roy Houseman urged Congress to remember when he testified before a House Ways and Means subcommittee on Tuesday.

Houseman, who works for the United Steelworkers, told committee members that the Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum are creating thousands of good-paying union jobs while also protecting these critical industries, which supply our defense and critical infrastructure.

Indeed, nearly 7,000 direct jobs have been created since the 232 investigations began in April 2017, with “tens of thousands of additional, indirect jobs resulting,” Houseman testified.

“It is good to hear from local union leaders like James Sanderson at USW local union 7898 in Georgetown, South Carolina. After a three-year idle, their wire rod facility is restarting, putting 125 workers back to work immediately… as orders rise, the company says another 195 people will be hired at the mill,” Houseman said.

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Why You Should Still Support Made in America, Even If You Don’t Like Donald Trump

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

President Trump officially has declared this week “Made in America Week,” and Tuesday officially “Made in America Day.”

It’s the second year in a row that The Donald has done so. It’s getting a lot less attention this year, given that the media has other things to cover, like Trump’s controversial meeting and outrageous press conference on Monday with Russia’s Vladmir Putin.

Sadly, Trump’s tendency (and frankly, eagerness) to pit Americans against each other has meant that Made in America – which once was a unifying message that reached across party lines – has become part of the divide. Many now associate Made in America with Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, while others simply do not want to support anything they view as remotely associated with Trump.

Made in America once signified love of the local community and a commitment to quality, mixed together with a dash of patriotism.

Now, it’s a political minefield.

Architectural Digest studied this division a few weeks back, interviewing an eclectic mix of makers, designers, and artisans about what Made in America means in the era of Trump. The folks who were interviewed don’t strike one as MAGA supporters by any means – in fact, I’d bet that many consider themselves to be card-carrying members of The Resistance -- but they still had a lot of love for Made in America.

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There’s Complaints About the Skills Gap Again. But There Are Also Solutions.

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

The latest jobs numbers were unveiled on Friday, and the news for manufacturing was pretty good. About 36,000 new jobs were created in June, according to the Labor Department — and roughly 285,000 factory jobs have been added over the past year.

(Notably, the fabricated metals industry saw 7,000 new jobs in June. This suggests that fears about the steel tariffs, now in their fourth month, might have been a tad overblown. But we digress.)

Anyway, the overall economy saw 213,000 new jobs last month, another consistent month of growth. With the economy nearing full employment, fears are rising that the “U.S. labor shortage is reaching a critical point.”

“Business’ number one problem is finding qualified workers. At the current pace of job growth, if sustained, this problem is set to get much worse,” Moody’s Analytics economist Mark Zandi told CNBC. “These labor shortages will only intensify across all industries and company sizes.”

Luckily for businesses, another CNBC story published this week on this exact issue might just contain one solution to this problem.

A CNBC Global CFO Council survey found that 84 percent of companies say they have had trouble in the past year filling skilled positions. Perhaps not surprisingly, the No. 1 thing corporations care about when selecting new worksites is finding workers with the right set of skills. They also consider local infrastructure and the cost of doing business in a new location.

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Union Matters

A Fierce Defender of Truth and Classic Opulence

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös sees himself as the custodian of a hallowed brand — and woe be to anyone who dares dispute Rolls supremacy in the universe of ultra luxury. This past March, Müller-Ötvös lit into an Aston Martin exec who had the temerity of suggesting that the traditional Rolls design amounted to an outmoded “ancient Greece.” An “enraged” Müller-Ötvös, Auto News reported, fumed that Aston Martin had “zero clue” about the ultra rich and then accused other carmakers of stealing Rolls-Royce intellectual property. Last summer, Müller-Ötvös rushed to defend the $650,000 price-tag on one Rolls model after a reporter told him that his son wondered why anyone who could afford to “fly to the moon” would choose to buy a Rolls instead. Rolls patrons, the 58-year-old CEO harrumphed back, hold at least $30 million in personal wealth: “They don’t have to choose. They can fly to the moon as well.”


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The Real Root of Poverty

The Real Root of Poverty