Manufacturing jobs coming back to the U.S.? What’s the catch?

If you’re out of work, you may have been heartened by news of recent reports that manufacturing jobs are coming back to the U.S.! The big-name Boston Consulting Group issued a report titled “Made in America Again: Why Manufacturing Will Return to the U.S.”

But the key word in the title is why. And the reasons they give will make a jobless worker’s guts churn.

Here is a telling quote from the report comparing what’s happening now in China (the country often blamed for U.S. joblessness) to the declining working conditions here:

Rising wages, shipping costs and land prices – combined with a strengthening renminbi [China’s currency] – are rapidly eroding China’s cost advantages. The U.S. meanwhile is becoming a lower-cost country. Wages have declined or are rising only moderately. The dollar is weakening. The workforce is becoming increasingly flexible. Productivity growth continues.

So manufacturing businesses should consider coming back to the U.S. because now U.S. workers will do more for less? And the “beholding-to-billionaires” Republican governors are leading the way in trying to trash collective bargaining? This is good news?

Here’s the way the report ends: “As long as it provides a favorable investment climate and flexible labor force, the U.S. can look forward to a manufacturing renaissance.” It makes one wonder who they think the U.S. is? The people who do the work or the people who make the profits? Kind of reminds you of the 99 percent versus 1 percent protests.

When the report was released in August, it received positive attention in the major media as some kind of hopeful sign for millions of out-of-work Americans. But the invaluable news source Remapping Debate (the folks who like to ask why and why not) did an in depth analysis of “Made in America” that is worth reading for everyone who is unemployed and by anyone with a job today but worrying about tomorrow.

The Remapping Debate findings are present in “Looking beneath a consulting firm’s facade of objectivity,” by Mike Alberti. That report quotes Bob Baugh, executive director of the AFL-CIO’s Industrial Union Council, a guy who knows whereof he speaks: “Free market advocates like BGC have no sense of national interest. They’re in it for the profit.”

So no point in holding our breath waiting for business to “solve” the jobs crisis that they in fact created. This puts even more emphasis on the need for a federal jobs program to hire millions of unemployed to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure that relocated companies stuck us with. Until a new version of the successful jobs programs of the 1930s can be won, the best use of our time and energy is to make sure the president’s American Jobs Act passes.

Photo: Line at jobs fair, Sept. 15, in Portland, Ore. Several thousands attended the one-day event. (Rick Bowmer/AP)


Barbara Russum
Barbara Russum

Barbara Russum is a longtime reader and supporter of People's World and works on the production team. As a cancer survivor she makes health care for all a high priority. Former manager of the late, great Modern Bookstore, she values books, public libraries and the struggle for universal literacy. She occasionally writes book reviews and articles for People's World. She is a proud member of the Chicago News Guild/CWA Local 34071.