The Global Marketplace

Since the early 1970’s the global economy has been devastating to those unprepared to deal with its challenges, or take advantage of its opportunities. Many firms represented by the IAM have shut their doors simply unable to compete or weather the downward pressures on prices.

The loss of competitiveness in global markets that began in the mid-seventies was seen by many North American firms, and workers, as a temporary setback.  However, despite sporadic attempts at business turnarounds, basic industries like aerospace, steel, and auto have suffered through substantial losses and the displacement of thousands of workers.  Even considering the cyclical nature of some industries the employment trend is downward.

To make matters worse, certain sectors of our industrial economy are dominated by money managers and takeover specialists. These individuals, like the video game “pac man,” swallow up companies and capital and merge them into large conglomerates and, later, into mammoth multinational corporations with sales greater than the total gross domestic product of most nations. These multinationals have no allegiance or responsibility to any single nation or community.

This same strategy has also had a tremendous impact on the thousands of small to medium size companies that manufacture consumer goods and constitute the backbone of the North American economy and employ more than 50 percent of IAM members.

The Great Rift

This rapid social and economic change has reduced or eliminated choices for many workers and has made it more difficult for them to find good paying, secure jobs. A strong back, skilled hands and a high school diploma were once sufficient tools with which to confront the future. Not today.

If we are not to avoid becoming a low-income society with a widely unequal distribution of income, how do we survive? One thing is certain, the service economy alone, whether it’s founded on fast food, pentium chip information, or international mega-sports, is doomed. As Mark Twain put it, over a hundred years ago, “We can’t survive as a nation, taking in each other’s wash.”

There are two choices. The first option is to compete globally for low wage, low skills jobs, a race to the bottom that we cannot win. The average worker in North America now sells about one month more labor per year than in the 1960s for essentially the same pay. But there is a limit to how hard one can work.

A Real Solution

The other option is to compete in the global market for the high skill, high wage jobs, by improving productivity and establishing a quality unique to the products we make. That option includes a strategy between labor and management to use any excess capacity the productivity and process improvements create to promote future business growth.

The IAMAW has reviewed the options and there is only one clear choice.  We are actively promotong an alternative that centers on labor and management jointly setting strategic goals for new work systems and real growth. By creating an HPWO Partnership, labor and management can establish a new relationship designed to grow the business, as well as save and create jobs so both partners can successfully survive and grow in the global economy.