ST. LOUIS - "We have to make manufacturing a priority again," Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo., told over 250 union members, community activists and students here at a town-hall style meeting sponsored by the Alliance for American Manufacturing.
The AAM is a non-partisan partnership of U.S. manufacturers and the United Steelworkers Union active in 22 states. Their plan for rebuilding America's manufacturing base include: expanding production, hiring and capital expenditures, investing in U.S. infrastructure, retraining the American workforce, strengthening and enforcing trade laws that benefit U.S. manufacturing and rebuilding the "innovation base."
"We need a manufacturing agenda," Carnahan continued. "This is about our economic self-interests."
The town hall was just north of the now-closed Chrysler, General Motors and Ford plants, west of the now-closed Granite City Steel plant, and south of the Boeing plant - which is still open.
Ten years ago 364,900 Missourians worked in manufacturing. Today only about 250,000 do.
Nationwide, in the past ten years over 5.5 million jobs have been lost in manufacturing and over 50,000 manufacturing facilities have been closed.
AAM executive director Scott Paul noted, "Manufacturing currently employees about 12 million people nationwide." However, he added, it creates an additional 8 million jobs in other industries.
"Manufacturing has the highest multiplier effect and pays better than other sectors of the economy," he added.
In fact, workers in manufacturing make on average about 22 percent more than their counterparts in other industries, and, due to high union density, receive better health care, pension and vacation packages.
According to Scott Paul, "78 percent of Americans support a national manufacturing strategy and 89 percent want a buy-American policy."
"Manufacturing gives people hope, skills and opportunity," Paul concluded.
"This isn't just about workers in the manufacturing industries," Don Giljum, Operating Engineers' Union Local 148, told the World. "This is about tax base and revenue for state and city budgets. This is about the mom-and-pop restaurants, bars, bowling allies and hardware stores where people spend their hard-earned money. This is about the American dream."
"Without good-paying manufacturing jobs our infrastructure will crumble," he concluded.
Dan Sinclair, who runs a local buy-union, buy-American car dealership, couldn't agree more, and added a partial solution: "If you want to stop good paying manufacturing jobs from leaving our country then stop buying things made overseas."
"Every day you have the opportunity to buy 10 or 12 American made products," Sinclair added.
Rev. Charles Burton, president of the United Congregations of Metro East, echoed Sinclair's comments and said, "This isn't about China or India. This is about supporting our own. This isn't racist. We don't want to demonize others. We just want to take care of our own."
"With the mid-term elections just days away we need to vote for those candidates that support a national manufacturing strategy, buy-American policies and good paying union jobs," said Giljum.
Photo: From left: Bob Farrar, president of Lunar Tool; intellectual-rights attorney James Wiley; auto dealer Dan Sinclair, and Rev. Charles K. Burton. At far right is moderator, Alliance for American Manufacturing Executive Director Scott Paul. Kevin Madden/St. Louis Labor Tribune