The year 1939 marked the beginning of the industrial zenith in the United States. With the help of cyclical expansion and consistent productivity, the manufacturing sector had approximately 20 million employees by 1979.
Professor of history at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and expert in labor studies Dr. Robert Forrant has experienced the highs and lows of the industrial industry personally. He worked as a machinist in a factory back in the ’80s.
“So at the end of the second World War, we become the major supplier of steel, of appliances, of everything that rebuilds Europe and rebuilds Japan, and rebuilds Asia and other parts of the global economy.”
“We’re exporting the know-how, we’re creating the possibilities for these other places, and West Germany and Japan, Britain, and France are all gonna rebuild as quickly as they can their manufacturing because they don’t like the drain of all their money coming to the United States.”
Manufacturing jobs have been disappearing for the past four decades, especially in sectors producing long-lasting products like equipment, fabricated metals, and electronic and electrical gadgets. Experts and analysts point fingers at automation and rising labor costs, while Forrant attributes the loss of jobs in the industry at large to the export of information and the stroke of a pen in 1993.
Former President Bill Clinton said-
“The gains from this agreement will be your gains too. It means greater productivity, lower unemployment, greater worker efficiency, and higher wages and greater security for our people.”
The United States, México, and Canada signed the North American Free Trade Agreement on December 8, 1993, establishing the largest free trade zone in the world at the time.
“It makes it easier and more lucrative for American-based corporations to put their facilities over the border in Mexico.”
“There was a realization that having manufacturing done closer to [where] innovation was being done created a better working relationship and got things done more quickly.”
Yet the jobs in the manufacturing sector now are not the same as they were during the first manufacturing boom. Because of the increased training requirements, labor scarcity is likely to result.
Forrant said –
“Lots of technical high schools, vocational high schools in New England and around the Great Lakes abandoned those training programs.”
In the midst of a manufacturing marathon in which the future of new job creation is uncertain, this is a challenge that certain companies must overcome.