A National Manufacturing Strategy could be the "be all, end all" for depressed wages

Posted by LRaup on 03/11/2014

Rutherford County, Tennessee. A modern poster child for low unemployment and manufacturing activity.

An example of job creation, global success and the return of American manufacturing, Nissan's Rutherford facility suggests a glimmer of triumph through years of decline and joblessness. But are its jobs up to snuff? Writing for the Washington Post, Lydia DePillis digs into the realities of a job on the Smyrna assembly line, many of which are only temporary positions, and their contribution to depressed manufacturing wages. She got Republican state representative Mike Sparks to weigh in on the damage that low wages have on local economies:

If we continue on the path we’re on, we’re going to see more apartments, more free and reduced lunch, more title loan businesses.

Manufacturing jobs have typically provide a middle-class income. But with wages now between 10 to 18 dollars an hour, providing for a family of six is difficult and stressful, if not impossible. So if the unemployment numbers are down, and wages aren't providing enough income, where do we go from here? What's the next move?

Move toward a manufacturing plan? Great answer. The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) published a comprehensive National Manufacturing Strategy that rewards job creation at home, enhances our workforce, and guarantees that our trade laws are enforced. A level playing field and competitive wages are pivotal for a prosperous manufacturing industry, and despite pay being down in all corners of the economy, increased manufacturing employment could lead the effort to expunge depressed wages.

For DePillis, the current manufacturing economy is fairly straightforward:

Good enough money to live on, but without the comforts that used to come with a middle-class job, and no reason for an employer to offer them up.

Is that how manufacturing jobs should be defined? Absolutely not. While the economic planners in Rutherford County should be applauded for their low jobless rate, a workforce heavily dependent upon temporary employment isn't one we should pursue. A national manufacturing strategy, on the other hand, could ensure the integrity of wages and jobs in Tennessee and the modern manufacturing industry.

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