Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Mark Schauer just... gets it
January 16, 2004: Electrolux Group, one of the largest household appliance manufacturers in the world, announces it will idle its refrigerator assembly operations in Greenville, MI. Nearly three thousand jobs will be eliminated.
November 21, 2005: GM announces a massive restructuring plan which will result in nine plant closures and the loss of nearly 30,000 jobs, almost ten percent of its American workforce of 325,000.
April 11, 2006: Automotive supplier Federal Mogul announces it will idle its operations in St. Johns, Michigan. Four hundred and twenty jobs will be lost.
2007: Faced with years of declining Medicare reimbursements and the astronomical rise in the ranks of the uninsured, Hackley Hospital, once the largest healthcare provider in Muskegon County, completes two rounds of layoffs. Eventually Hackley agrees to be swallowed by its competitor, Mercy Hospital, resulting in Mercy Health Partners. Hackley Hospital, opened on November 17, 1904 as Muskegon's hometown healthcare provider, is no more. Hackley's Lakeshore Cancer Center closes.
You've heard the story a hundred times before. A manufacturer or other business hits hard times, finds a cheaper way to do things, finds a cheaper place to do things, and locks the door on the American worker.
Mark Schauer's heard the story a hundred times before, too*. He's heard it in his own family as his son-in-law, a journeyman electrician, struggles to find work in Washington state. He's heard it before with several nurses in his family (although their dilemma is rather reversed--forced to work overtime to compensate their brethren in the healthcare industry who have retired and not been replaced, been laid off, been or just plain been burned out by deplorable working conditions.)
He heard it again this morning. He heard from a representative from the Electrolux union in Greenville. He heard from a representative from the Federal-Mogul union in St. John's. He heard from a rep for the ironworkers' union, whose ranks are fleeing Michigan for greener pastures elsewhere. He heard from a maintenance worker at the Potterville school district, which has privatized its maintenance operations.
Mark Schauer was the guest of honor at a roundtable on economic issues hosted by the Michigan AFL-CIO this morning in Delta Township, moderated by Michigan AFL-CIO president Mark Gaffney. He heard these stories this morning, and among the stories, one fact emerged: Mark Schauer gets it.
He gets that these workers aren't statistics--they're real people. He understands the dilemma of the worker forced to leave his family behind in Michigan as he seeks work in Wyoming, or Massachusetts, or Washington. Most importantly, he understands that our entire economy is a giant, tangled web, and that if one strand in the web collapses, the whole web is in jeopardy.
He understands that we're spending $10 billion a month in Iraq, enough money to fund the vetoed SCHIP program for five years. He understands that his great-nephew Aidan goes without health insurance because his parents make just a little too much money for SCHIP.
He understands that we're about to spend $700 billion to bail out Wall Street, money that (to use our new favorite frame) could be used to bail out Main Street. He understands that when the government buys back a bad mortgage from a bank, it's still a bad mortgage: the family living in the house the mortgage purchased is now forced out on the street.
He understands that our economic hell (at least here in Michigan) was created by NAFTA, fueled by CAFTA, and blown to epic proportions by the pro-business, anti-worker policies of the Bush Administration and the Republican Party.
He understands that when NAFTA was passed, as he put it, "somebody got lied to."
Mark Schauer gets it.
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