Saturday, November 6, 2010

President Obama Says India Creates Not Steals U.S. Jobs

According to the AP, President Barack Obama announced that India is a creator of U.S. jobs, not a poacher. He claims that new trade agreements with India will create 54,000 in the United States. While India is a major importer and exporter of good between our two countries, much of what we import from India was once able to be cheaply produced here in the United States, and was in the minds of many, some of the highest quality goods ever produced. Why is our president looking to poorer countries like India to boost our economy?

Perhaps he is trying to make up for the poor foreign relations policies of George Bush, or perhaps he is huge fan of receiving technical support from people whose only English consists of a matrix of scripts that lead you nowhere and rarely, if ever solve your particular problem? I am not trying to infer that India is incapable of producing goods that Americans might need, but with the exception of textiles, most of what India gives us could be made in American factories that will end up employing tens of thousands of American workers and in turn strengthen our own economy. We must reduce our dependence on foreign made goods that were once a major part of American history.

My grandparents came from Italy and Czechoslovakia to work at the once famous Endicott Johnson shoe factory. Thousands of immigrants once flooded in to this country knowing only one phrase in English "Which way, EJ?" Leather, Steel, pre-fabricated parts for almost any contraption imaginable, and a host of other blue collar enterprises that helped shape this country during the early part of the 20th century. These things were a part of my childhood, and now all of them are but a memory.

I grew up in Endicott, NY the birthplace of IBM(Yes, that IBM.)The home of Endicott Johnson Shoes, and Union Forging. Endicott Johnson started in 1899 and by the mid 1920's employed over 20,000 people. Their employees enjoyed health insurance, a pension plan, affordable housing, and many parks and recreational sites built by the company for the benefit of their employees and the surrounding community. By the boom years of the 1940's, they had increased their workforce considerably, and at the height of their prosperity produced over 52 million pairs of shoes a year.(Take that China!)

Here is a small part of what Endicott Johnson brought to the table that most companies today couldn't even match. From Wikipedia:
George F's reign was dominated by his Square Deal version of welfare capitalism that, like progressive movements of the early twentieth century, advocated providing parades and churches and libraries to "uplift" workers. George F's Square Deal consisted of worker benefits even in harsh economic times that were generous and innovative for their time, but also meant to engender worker loyalty and discourage unionizing.
For workers, the Square Deal consisted of a chance to buy E-J built and E-J financed homes, a profit sharing program, health care from factory-funded medical facilities and later (built in 1949) two worker recreational facilities. But the Square Deal was more than an employee benefit program. E-J and the Johnson family also provided or helped to finance two libraries, theaters, a golf course, swimming pools, carousels, parks and food markets, many of which were available to the community without charge. Reminders of the source of that generosity were inescapable. :
  • Endicott was a community planned by E-J and incorporated in 1906. It was named after Henry B. Endicott (one of the grade schools was named Henry B,) who owned the business that became E-J. Lestershire was renamed Johnson City, New York in honor of George F. All of the tanneries and the vast majority of the shoe factories were located in Endicott with a few satellite locations in Johnson City and Binghamton. The Johnson's lived in Endicott and George F's mansion was donated to the Village after his death and became the public library.
  • Most of the jobs were classified as "piece work". Racks of shoes moved though the factories with "coupons" attached to each rack. When the worker completed his/her operation on the rack of shoes, he or she removed the appropriate coupon which was worth a few pennies. At the end of the week the worker turned in his coupons from which the payroll department calculated pay. The work was hard and the pay was low but the extensive benefits were offsets. The windows in the factories were painted so workers wouldn't be distracted by the outside. The company needed a large labor pool and initiated a recruitment program aimed at southern Italy and the Slavic countries and so Endicott became a small town with a rich ethnic mix. Many of the sons and daughters of these immigrants graduated from Union-Endicott High School and went on to become teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers,and successful business people. Very few went to work in the factories.
  • The entrance to Johnson City on Main Street from Binghamton is marked with a stone arch embossed with Home of the Square Deal. There was a corresponding arch on the other end of Main Street that served as the entrance to Endicott. E-J workers paid for and erected these arches. Both arches were dedicated on September 6, 1920.
  • One of the E-J swimming pools was shaped in the outline of a gigantic shoe sole. 
  • The Triple Cities contain a number of statues of the Johnson family, including Johnson City's statue of Harry L. Johnson (the youngest brother to George F.), and Binghamton's statue of George F. Johnson in the George F. Johnson Recreation Park, and, also in Recreation Park, the Harry L. Johnson memorial. 
  • Endicott had En-Joie Park (with E and the J capitalized to evoke E-J). The Triple Cities Parks contained a carousel called "merry go rounds" and they also contained playground equipment,a baseball diamond and picnic areas, a large swimming pool and a band stand. In the summer,the Endicott-Johnson workers band performed concerts every Sunday Evening in the Endicott En-Joy Park. 
  • There were also Recreation Center buildings in Endicott and Johnson City. They contained subsidized bowling alleys in the basement and a large banquet room on the main floor. Retirement dinners were given on a regular basis in the Recreation Centers. Any employee could attend the dinners for $.25. 
  • Various roads and bridges refer to the Johnsons, including CFJ Boulevard in Johnson City, and the C. Fred Johnson Bridge over the Susquehanna River (part of Expressway Route 201) which was named in honor of Charles F. Johnson (an older brother of George F.) 
  • The word Ideal appeared in many places, including E-J's first (1901) factory in Endicott, Endicott's Ideal Home Library (contributed to Endicott by George F) and Ideal Hospital. The library was later demolished to make room for municipal facilities and relocated to George F's former mansion.
Around 1959 Things began to change and the company went in to slow decline. they slowly withered until their last manufacturing plant closed in 1998. By than all of the innovations, the hospitals and the like were closed as well. Their donation of Carousels and a few parks are all that remain of their once great empire. We are still the Carousel capitol of the world, and tens of thousands of the homes they once built for their employees are still standing.
 From Wikipedia:
The reason for their decline and eventual demise:The demise of the E-J was rooted in many economic changes. Its founding principles of valuing labor were threatened by the availability of cheap foreign labor and the rise of global shoemakers such as Nike
 How about IBM? In the late 1800's three companies merged to form Computing Tabulating Recording (CTR) Corporation.CTR was incorporated on June 16, 1911 in Endicott, New York. Their production facilities are still a major part of the framework of downtown Endicott, though much of the buildings are empty or being leased to other companies. They were incredibly prosperous, and they employed so many skilled people that it was impossible to live in Endicott and not know or be related to someone who worked there.

However, by the 1990's they hit a slump and began to sell of useless arms to their company like typewriters, copy machines, etc. Downsizing followed. This led to other controversial cuts, promised pensions were slashed, and employees were let go before they were eligible to collect those pensions.

As we all know, IBM is still around and growing again at a steady pace, but their revival came to late for Endicott. IBM eventually sold off their PC computer division to Chinese company, Lenovo.
Union Forging was another integral part of the Endicott landscape. There is little information available online about this company but here is a little of what I was able to dig up from
Beginning in the late 1800’s, Union Forging made custom
steel products on a 13 acre facility in Endicott, NY. Union
Forging thrived over the years until the 1990’s when they
were forced out of business by cheaper imported parts
 Are you seeing the trend here. Globalization has it's good points, but not if we let it destroy our economy. While I am a proponent of free trade, I am by no means an Anarcho-Capitalist. There needs to be guiding principles that lead to responsible trade, ones that ensure the continued solidity of the American infrastructure. We used to be a country that was proud of the products we made. Now American flags are produced in China, a major kick in the pants to anyone with even a shred of pride in their American heritage. I can't even buy pacifiers or teething toys for my daughter that aren't made in China. You know, the country that puts lead paint in kids toys.

Our entire history is forged from the sacrifice, hard work, and innovation of it's people. Even when we were the underdog, or sorely unprepared for a surprise challenge, we rose up to those problems, we innovated, and with the determination of a Pit Bull we pressed on, and we were victorious. We won our freedom against the most well trained, well funded army in the world at that time.

We again overcame the might of the German war machine during WWII. We used our ingenuity to build machines of war that we had never needed before. We quickly trained an army of a size we had never had a use for. Although ill prepared in comparison to the army of highly trained soldiers that Germany spent many, many years readying for battle, we did the impossible, and saved Europe from the greatest threat modern man had ever faced.

All of these things were made possible by American workers, using American parts, and American ingenuity to create superior products that the world once envied. Our president however is convinced our economies future lies with India. A country with a 66% literacy rate, and a currency that trades at 44.12 against the dollar. In contrast the Peso goes 12.20 against the dollar.