Are Manufacturing Jobs the New McJobs?

Brad Markell

Brad Markell AFL-CIO

The ugly reality that people who work in manufacturing have witnessed for years has just been laid out for all to see in new research by the National Employment Law Project and the UC Berkeley Labor Center: Wages in the manufacturing sector have been pushed so low that 34% of all people who work in production are in households enrolled in public safety net programs.

Contrary to the popular image of manufacturing jobs as a route to the middle class, NELP found that the typical manufacturing production wage is below the national average. This is the result of the deliberate weakening of people’s freedom to negotiate for better pay on the job, currency manipulation and bad trade deals, especially Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China.

The increasing use of temps in manufacturing also has contributed to the decline in job quality, even in large firms like the Japanese automakers. UC Berkeley says temps make $4 per hour less than permanent production employees, and that 50% of their families access safety net programs to get by.

Fortunately, we know how to reverse these trends. It starts with organizing, so working people in manufacturing, including temps, can come together in union and negotiate for better pay.

Politics matter, too. If we are able to keep the trade debate at the top of the political agenda, we can defeat thehorrible Tran-Pacific Partnership and negotiate international agreements that work for everyone.

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This has been reposted from the AFL-CIO.

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