November 6, 2016
By Stephanie West
Washington, DC – A new report Unmade in America: Industrial Flight and the Decline of Black Communities, explores the devastating effects to American cities caused by the loss of Manufacturing jobs. Employment in the manufacturing industry has provided a path to the middle class for millions in our cities.
The report examines the multi-generational impact of plant closings and outsourcing. High joblessness in certain communities is the obvious outcome of deindustrialization and the shipping of jobs overseas. The spiral down in the 1970s continued into the 21st Century. More than 63,000 factories have closed since 2001. Over a 15-year period alone (between 1998 and 2013), an estimated 5.7 million manufacturing jobs were lost. The deindustrialization in the urban centers of our country has contributed to a national black youth jobless rate of 27 percent.
The report spotlights the changes in our cities caused by industrial flight. This country has not addressed unfair trade policies and manufacturing job loss. The long-term impacts from our manufacturing sector moving overseas has particularly affected black communities in industrial hubs like St. Louis, Baltimore, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Birmingham. “The story began with the post-World War II manufacturing boom that created the world’s greatest economic power for white and black American working families. However, when manufacturing began to decline, industrial flight snatched the livelihoods of these workers — and black workers suffered the most,” said report author Gerald Taylor.
A microcosm of how black communities have been unmade is Youngstown, Ohio. A steel industry mecca in the post-World War II era, Youngstown enjoyed full employment until a plant closing resulted in thousands of lost jobs. Without prior notice, a major steel plant shut down in 1971 and instantly threw 5,000 workers into unemployment. What followed was the rippling failure of other businesses, decline of the city’s tax base and flight of the white middle class. Many black residents, saddled by housing discrimination that limited their mobility, remained trapped in perpetual joblessness, poverty, crime and neighborhood decay. Today, demographers describe Youngstown, reduced from a population of 170,000 to 64,000, as America’s fastest shrinking city with the highest level of concentrated black poverty.
Despite the loss of manufacturing jobs in the USA, the Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul said the problems can be reversed with a three-prong approach that includes infrastructure investment, innovative workforce development and fully enforced trade laws that are fair and ensure U.S. workers benefit.
“Manufacturing job loss consumes communities, not just workers. At the same time, manufacturing jobs represent new opportunities and hope.” Paul said. “The key is getting policy right. We must invest in workforce development and America’s crumbling infrastructure programs, and vigorously fight against unfair trade practices if we’re to stop industrial flight and build up our middle-class. Now is the time for our lawmakers to invest, invest, invest.”