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Celebrate Labor Day by Voting Democratic!

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Message Michael Gillespie
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I was a union shipyard worker for several years, a dues paying member of Local 587 of the Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers, at Bethlehem Steel's Beaumont Yard, where offshore drilling rigs were first designed and produced.

Shipyard Workers, Beaumont, Texas, 1943
Shipyard Workers, Beaumont, Texas, 1943
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My first supervisory position was as a union shipfitter foreman on an inland waterway drill barge construction project. Later, work as a shipfitter foreman took me into management for Todd Shipyards, Inc. in Galveston, TX and for General Dynamics Corporation at the defense giant's now-closed Quincy, MA shipyard. Laid off by General Dynamics near the completion of the TAKX new construction program (that's those floating warehouses and parking lots that store enough war materiel to supply a US Marine Corps battalion for 30 days on the ground), I found work as a shipfitter one last time, as a civilian employee of the US Coast Guard at the North End Station in Boston, MA. So, I've seen both sides of the private sector labor/management divide as well as government service in the same skilled trade. Later still, I lived and worked in Cambridge, MA for five years as a mid-level manager for the oldest corporation in America.

Today, and since the middle 1980s, the marine construction industry in the USA is a pale shadow of its former self. Bethlehem Steel Corporation, the industry giant that produced the steel for San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and millions of other bridges, ships, skyscrapers, automobiles, rail cars and thousands of miles of rail, is long gone. To imagine for a moment that unions killed the steel industry or marine construction in the USA, or the textile industry, for instance, would be foolish indeed. Unions don't kill industries or jobs; counterproductive government policy and poor management, management that lacks the creativity to adapt to change, that's what kills jobs. Bridges, ships, skyscrapers, and - thanks to President Obama - automobiles are still being built in America, but good-paying steel industry jobs in the USA, like marine construction jobs and jobs in many other areas of manufacturing, are mostly a memory. People are still buying and wearing clothes, but the textile industry jobs are gone too, off-shored by corporate management that lacked the patriotism, the will, and the creativity to put the US economy and American jobs first.

Despite small gains during the last two years, the trend in manufacturing employment in the USA has been downward for 30 years, according to news reports and labor statistics. Unions were not and are not job-killers. The job-killers were and are corporate greed and deeply-flawed government policy influenced if not dictated by corporate power. You can thank Ronald Reagan, who broke the back of organized labor in the USA when he de-certified the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization in 1981, for that. As Thom Hartmann has pointed out: "When Reagan came into office we were the largest exporter of manufacturing goods and the largest importer of raw materials on the planet. And, the largest creditor -- more people owed us money than anybody else in the world. Now, just 28 years later, we're the largest importer of finished goods, manufactured goods; the largest exporter of raw materials--which is kind of the definition of a third-world nation -- and we're the most in-debt of any country in the world. This is the absolute consequence of Reaganomics" ( http:// thom-hartmann/ thom-hartmann-defends-the_b _150964.html).

It's long past time to turn our economy around. But to think of putting Republicans who still worship Ronald "trickle down" Reagan in charge of economic recovery, well, that's just plain crazy.

Happy Labor Day! Vote Democratic!
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Michael Gillespie writes regularly about peace and social justice issues. A 1999 graduate of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Iowa State University, he was inducted a member of Kappa Tau Alpha, the national honor (more...)

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