Thursday, October 11, 2007

Peterson's Ad Misrepresents True Plight Of United Mechanics

Mayor Bart Peterson's latest campaign commercial offers a testimony from one of the 2,000 workers who lost his job when United Airlines closed its maintenance facility at Indianapolis International Airport. It gives you the impression Mayor Peterson really stepped up and helped these unemployed workers. It's simply not true. Advance Indiana reported last year on a book New York Times' economics writer Louis Uchitelle, "The Disposable American: Layoffs and Their Consequences." Uchitelle's book showcased the plight of United Airlines aircraft mechanics in Indianapolis to illustrate the struggle American workers have in finding jobs which pay a decent wage, irrespective of their skills and education. Here's what I wrote then about Uchitelle's findings:

The federal government stepped in with federal grants to help with the retraining. The Indianapolis Private Industry Council, Uchitelle explains, acted as a conduit for funneling the federal dollars into retraining efforts. The Council contracted with Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana. Their goal was to get most of the laid off mechanics re-employed at 90% of the previous wage, which in the case of the mechanics was $31/hour. And since the laid off workers were earning only $336/week in unemployment benefits, down from the $1,100 they earned in their previous jobs, the mechanics welcomed the assistance the training program offered. Nonetheless, the efforts failed and failed miserably. Uchitelle writes, "But the employment goals were not met. They could not be met; they were too optimistic, mythically optimistic."

Uchitelle found that the aircraft mechanics didn't need any training or education. As it turns out, they were way over-qualified for the supply of jobs the market offered. Uchitelle explains:

But training for what? The reality, as the aircraft mechanics discovered, is painfully different from the reigning wisdom. Rather than having a shortage of skills, millions of American workers have more skills than their jobs require. That is particularly true of college-educated people, who make up 30 percent of the population today, up from 10 percent in the 1960's. They often find themselves working in sales or as office administrators, or taking jobs in hotels and restaurants, or becoming carpenters, flight attendants and word processors . . .

So the demand for jobs is considerably greater than the supply, and the supply is not what the reigning theory says it is. Most of the unfilled jobs pay low wages and require relatively little skill, often less than the jobholder has. From the spring of 2003 to the spring of 2004, for example, more than 55 percent of the hiring was at wages of $13.25 an hour or less: hotel and restaurant workers, health care mployees, temporary replacements and the like.

The outcome of the retraining and education efforts of the aircraft mechanics who participated in Goodwill's program made Uchitelle's point abundantly clear. Instead of the $31 an hour they were accustomed to earning, more than half of the laid off workers who participated in the program found jobs earning between $14 and $20 an hour, such as HVAC repairmen, auto mechanics, computer maintenance workers or truck drivers. Nearly one-fifth of those workers wound up in jobs which paid less than $13.25 an hour, working in jobs at warehouses, construction, retail and restaurants. Only 15 of the 185 who completed the program found jobs earning at or above their old wage. Of those 15, half of them were re-employed elsewhere as aircraft mechanics, and they were typically younger, lower-paid workers earning close to that of their non-union counterparts. Describing the utter failure of the efforts, Uchitelle writes:

The process was like a funnel: wide at one end, where all the laid-off workers go in, and narrow at the other, where a limited number gradually emerge into retraining and, if they are lucky, new jobs at decent pay. Mark A. Crouch, a professor of labor studies at Indiana University, used another analogy to describe the recycling of laid-off workers. He called it a "burial program."

So what Mayor Peterson describes as a success in his latest campaign is described by Uchitelle as a "burial program." Who do you believe?


Anonymous said...

Thank you! These poor little union people believe what they are told! Unions are a BUSINESS. I've seen it with my own eyes. They are not worried out the people they are supposed to represent, only making money and acting like they can deliver votes. They never could deliver my vote, and the mechanics at United fell for all the bull they were being fed.

Peterson just found one of the stupid sheep.

Anonymous said...

And of course the Grand Old Party will just lay there whimpering and not call hizzoner on this latest of his big lies.

Anonymous said...

My son is an aircraft electrican who was employed by United. When he was layed off he delivered pizza and was NEVER offered any retraining. Luckily, he finally found another job - out of state - in his field.

Anonymous said...

The bigger issue here is not the partisan political one, of course, but the really disturbing economic (and therefore, social) trends that are described in the article. Income disparity in this country continues to increase(

It's hard to feel very positively about the future of our country when only a lucky few (lucky due to birth or, occasionally, brains & circumstance) have a good probability of living the American dream. That is not what this country is supposed to be about but, increasingly, that is the case.

Anonymous said...

The latest ad has a woman talking about how Bart went after a sex business in her neighborhood. Hey Melissa - I think they are talking about you! Talk about 'drinking the kool-aid" boy if the woman in the commercial believes what she is saying, we might as well as start calling the "kook-aid".

If the woman on the commercial bothered to check her facts she would see that Bart made an ASS of himself on M's case.

Anonymous said...

are you trying to say that Barts ads are lying?