Such a lovely surprise this weekend: “Detropia,” a new documentary about our troubled neighbor, which played to a nearly packed house Saturday night hereabouts.
I understand this is of limited interest to those who don’t live nearby (or in similar cities), but for those of you who like film, documentaries, or who have any sort of connection to this place, I do recommend it. With some caveats.
They are: This isn’t a “news” documentary at all, more like jazz — meditations on a mood, improvisations on a theme, observations rather than commentary, although of course you’re free to fill in the blanks, and in fact are encouraged to.
The takeaway is that Detroit is the industrial age’s coal-mine canary, and that no one has sufficiently answered the question of what comes next. You may or may not agree, but the question — posed by one of the Detroiters whose activities serve as a through-line — is worth asking.
One scene features the UAW local president laying out the harsh reality for a room full of workers at one of the surviving plants, American Axle. It is a take-it-or-leave-it shit sandwich of 20-30 percent wage cuts across the board, and these are not good jobs in the first place — the top tier is around $18 an hour (down to $14), with the $14-per-hour folks knocked down to $11. The union moves to not even consider the offer, and it passes unanimously. The plant closes, a foregone conclusion.
I looked at these men and women, and thought, for the millionth time: What are we going to do with you? These aren’t lazy people. They want to work. They need to be paid a living wage. Twenty-two grand a year for life in an axle plant? Are you kidding me?
We say this over and over and over: Not everyone is cut out for higher education, but everyone can work. But where will the laid-off American Axle workers find it?
They are the 47 percent. By now, anyway. Neither presidential candidate has a concrete plan for their future. The Germans still have a healthy force of factory workers, don’t they? How do they manage it? (Don’t answer, I know. They take education and training a lot more seriously than we do.)
All is not grim. There’s a marvelous character, Tommy Stephens, a retired teacher who runs a blues club in a particularly bombed-out neighborhood, a stone’s throw from the urban farm site I wrote about earlier this year, although it’s a club in the street corner-in-Detroit sense, not, say, the House of Blues. But Stephens is funny and smart and won’t give up, and in that sense is the reason I like this screwed-up place so much.
And just in case you find all that too depressing, there’s this, from the Atlantic, on the booming startup culture downtown. It won’t be enough to save all 139 square miles, but it’s something.
Boy, is this story depressing:
A lot of voters are lukewarm about the guy they support, but they are white hot about the guy they loathe.
“If they had Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein and Barack Obama running, Barack Obama would be my last pick,” says Ray Morrison, 70, a retired steelworker and truck driver who lives on a country road west of the city. “If you want to know the true story about Obama, you have to watch Fox a little bit. I hate him.”
Here’s Cheryl Doran, 50, a waitress at the family restaurant Naples, speaking of Romney: “I think he’s the devil. I have no use for him.”
Al Fenner, 68, a bishop in the Shepherds Walk mission downtown, doesn’t think the president is “all-American” and believes that Obama once said that “he would stand more with the Islamic rather than with the American way.” Asked to cite a specific instance of Obama saying that, Fenner answered: “Go on YouTube and find it. I would not quote it if it were not true.”
I assume he’s talking about this, which I’ve seen referred to over and over again in the last few weeks. “But he’s a Muslim! He admits it!” etc. Watch the video, and you can see this admission in much the same way you see the cast of “Mad Men” sing along with Rick Astley.
Well, we still have five or six weeks to go, so why dwell? Hope your weekend was great. My apple pie turned out just fine.
Dexter said on September 24, 2012 at 12:44 am
“Detropia” directors speak of the doc,shed light n this project….
Jolene said on September 24, 2012 at 1:11 am
The Achenbach story was, indeed, about as depressing as it gets, not only because of the ridiculous things some of the interviewees said about the prez but also because of the objective difficulty of their circumstances. I wonder, too, what is supposed to become of these people–whether we have wherewithal to face the situation and do something about it.
Meanwhile, we have another entry in the “grasping at straws to make Obama sound like a communist” category. How anyone could listen to these few seconds of 14-year-old tape and conclude that we are in danger of an imposed collectivist future is beyond me, but that doesn’t stop Sean Hannity and Michelle Malkin.
Jolene said on September 24, 2012 at 1:13 am
Has the editing option disappeared? Have noticed that it hasn’t shown up on a couple of recent posts. The entry above should say “the wherewithal.”
Deborah said on September 24, 2012 at 3:26 am
Very depessing story about the polarized people in those Ohio towns.
My anniversary dinner was superb. There were 12 courses, each one small. Great combinations of flavors in each one. After the first couple I thought we might have to stop at McDonalds on the way home, I didn’t think we’d get enough food. But in the end I was stuffed. I highly recommend Graham Eliot if you’re ever in Chicago.
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 24, 2012 at 6:57 am
The Germans take tracking very seriously, too, and that’s part of the confusion I think many of us feel, which Nancy has summed up all too well here. Auf Deutschland, they “decide” who’s going to be a factory worker from intermediate school on, and most of the culture is pretty much okay with that, in large part because being trained and aimed at that life isn’t as uncertain and worrisome as it is in American labor culture. We rely on union activity to protect worker rights, but accept exactly what Nancy has her finger on: they vote as a union to accept a course of action that everyone resignedly knows will end the plant and all their jobs, and they walk out into the radical uncertainty that is the full-blown roar of “creative destruction.” That’s the shadow side of capitalism that Romney is poorly (if indeed he’s even trying, debateable) defending, and that Obama is challenging. But is the new model we’re moving towards with largely unspoken direction one of increased state intervention on the labor side, or on the capital movement side? Germany does the latter, with social democrats accepting class reinforcement by agencies of the state in education tracking, taking it as a fair deal in return for social “security” of a sort that FICA doesn’t provide until 65 (or 67).
Conservatives argue that this enshrines a level of rigidity in the economy that ultimately will erode the foundations, and lead to an inability to adapt and innovate, which will save more and better jobs in the long run. Our own national debate right now has conservatism on its heels in making this case, and many more of us asking if it is ever true, or is this just one of the rougher adaptive patches for an economy moving through a period of massive technological transformation and instability. I think what’s created an insuperable obstacle for Romney is that every one is agreeing on one level or another that business and capital has to pitch in more strongly to help ease the social impact of this transformation, and the idea that they should get legal fences that “socialize risk and privatize profit” is getting knocked down by all sorts of political pressures.
alex said on September 24, 2012 at 7:29 am
That someone’s takeaway from Fox News is that Idi Amin and Saddam Hussein would make better presidents than Obama speaks volumes about the network’s duplicity. It seems that every time I roll my eyes at a screeching alarmist I’m told I need to watch Fox.
I watched the side-by-side interviews of Romney and Obama on 60 Minutes last night. They seemed to avoid showing much of Romney—is his body language so awkward that they don’t dare show more than his head? I’m sure the questions were vetted beforehand by the camps because Romney’s answers sounded like they were rehearsed from a text with bullet points. Obama came across as much more at ease and authentic. I think the debates will bear this out. Romney looked like a deer in the headlights when he went up against Gingrich, Santorum, Bachmann, etc. and I don’t expect the next time to be any different.
When asked what is the one big thing he wants his presidency to be remembered for, Romney gave some empty platitude about restoring freedom. Again, what freedom was ever taken away? The right to use racial slurs in the workplace? Is that what these people are so agitated about?
coozledad said on September 24, 2012 at 7:55 am
Well, they took away Bill O’Reilly’s right to grab himself a big handful of ass at work without being slapped with a lawsuit.
I used to let myself get pissed off at Fox News, but it saves that tribe from having to make up its own racist shit. It paints them all a uniform safety orange that says “Watch out. Ineducable crank.” Almost makes it too easy, really.
The only thing that bothers me is the “both sides do it” horseshit, justified by equating Fox with MSNBC. Joe Scar and his two grand a night hooker are there every morning giving the lie to that.
Linda said on September 24, 2012 at 8:09 am
“The Germans still have a healthy force of factory workers, don’t they? How do they manage it? (Don’t answer, I know. They take education and training a lot more seriously than we do.)”
Tell that to American programmers that have seen their jobs go to Asia, and have been trained up the wazoo. Germany protects its jobs, and subsidized them throughout the recession. While Republicans went wild about the bailout of the auto companies, and the protection of pensions, they actively defended giant bonuses to executives of rescued banks. Let’s face it: there is a large, conservative faction that hates people who aren’t rich. The 47% tape just took it out of hiding in plain sight to plain sight, period.
Jolene said on September 24, 2012 at 8:32 am
The Germans also dealt w/ the 2008 crisis by cutting hours, rather than cutting people. Then, as demand picked up, they didn’t have to deal w/ recruiting or training new people. They just expanded hours. I’m not absolutely certain, but I think.the state chipped in by providing a supplement to the workers’ reduced wages, a form of unemployment compensation that doesn’t require that one be completely unemployed. The result is much more predictability for both companies and workers.
beb said on September 24, 2012 at 8:45 am
Calling Detroit the canary in the coal mine is, I feel, way too generous.
The story of American Axle but I think I know what was going through the workers mines when they votes down a contract with a 20% wage cut, knowing that the plant would close of they did. They probably asked themselves if they took this wage cut what was to stop their employer from coming back in three years time to ask for another 10% wage cut, and another cut after that until they run up against the minimum wage can can’t demand any more cuts? Their choice was between a brutal but uncertain future and a brutal and uncertain present. And I think they just decided to pull the plug now.
I don’t know how Germany has been able to retain its industrial base. Probably didn’t have Wal-Mart around trying to undercut prices on everything. Wal-mart was a greater driver for off-shoring manufacturing. Low, low prices are nice but when no one is working it doesn’t matter how low the prices are, no one can afford them.
When Romney was arguing that $200,000 to $250,000 was Middle Class I thought he was on to something because one defining characteristic, at least for me, is that the Middle Class doesn’t live from paycheck to paycheck. Of course, if Romney is right, then there is little middle class left in the US, we’re all in the lower classes. At the same time I was surprised to find that $200K puts on in the 2-3% highest income bracket. No wonder President Obama wanted to raise taxes starting with people making $250,000 a year. I thought that was much too low, and he would have a better time trying to selling a tax increase that begins at one million dollars. But if $250,000 puts on in the top 3% of earners, then hell yes, tax ’em.
JWfromNJ said on September 24, 2012 at 8:58 am
Any thoughts on Treme? I was thrilled to see another face from, “The Wire,” when “prez” was on screen.
alex said on September 24, 2012 at 9:59 am
beb, the argument about $250K versus $1 million was largely about geographical differences in the cost of living. $250K in a place like Indiana makes you upper middle class. $250K in NYC, DC, LA, SF means you live paycheck to paycheck because the cost of housing, property taxes and other things is astronomical.
I think half a million would be a good starting point.
Jolene said on September 24, 2012 at 10:10 am
But starting at half a million or a million doesn’t bring in enough money to make a significant cut in the deficit. 250K might not be as much in Mahattan as it is in St. Louis, but it is still well above the median income, both locally and nationally. Remember that the proposed increase is only an additional 4% on the portion of one’s income over 250K.
Prospero said on September 24, 2012 at 10:29 am
Jolene@9: American companies viewed the crashing economy as a wedge to increase productivity, a particularly virulent form of profiteering. The mechanism is simple, When jobs are scarce people witll put up eith forced longer hours and pay cuts to avoid losing a job. This is the situation that has led to CEO compensation at 300% of workers pay, even as CEOs seem to be worse and worse at their jobs.
Massachusetts orchards and Johnny Appleseed.
Was TLC ever The Learning Channel? It needs to be changed to LCD-TV.
Julie Robinson said on September 24, 2012 at 10:34 am
So, someone who earns 300K would owe an additional 2K? That sounds reasonable to me. Too bad reasonable isn’t voting.
Carmina Burana was thrilling, and while he would have sung for free, Matt was pleasantly surprised by the size of his check. Everyone sang/played/danced to the best of their abilities, and if I missed the huge leaping moves of top-notch male dancers, well, I quibble. They had good crowds too, which is always encouraging to see.
Did you know that Germans pay a church tax? I did not, and heard this fascinating story on the BBC this morning. It puts my own church’s current stewardship program in an interesting perspective: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-19699581
BTW, on the radio story a priest said he would not deny communion to anyone.
nancy said on September 24, 2012 at 10:38 am
For those of you asking about editing: I can still see the edit button, but of course I am queen of this blog and expect nothing less.
I’ll ask J.C. to take a look at it, but be advised he is on vacation at the moment, and I don’t think this is worth bothering him on vacation. In the meantime, can we live with the usual coping devices? I.e., “this is what I meant to say, dammit?” Because I lack the skills to fix it.
Danny said on September 24, 2012 at 11:07 am
You are a bunch of total losers!
Danny said on September 24, 2012 at 11:08 am
Whoops, what I meant to say that you all had some very thoughtful posts! 🙂
Jeff Borden said on September 24, 2012 at 11:08 am
I state first that I am not a diehard Democrat. The party is too wimpy. . .it suffers from its own institutional hubris. . .etc.
But I simply cannot imagine ever casting a vote for a Republican seeking national office. What, exactly, would this political party do for me?
I have some investments, but do not derive income from them at the moment, so I don’t benefit from the GOP’s general economics policy. I have a preexisting condition which they say insurance companies can use to prevent me from signing up for health care. They believe every international dustup requires American military force and are itching for a war with Iran and a trade fight with China. They tell me they want government out of my life, but they harass women seeking to exercise their constitutional rights. I have friends who are gay, bi, ESLs, Muslim, minorities. . .all parties either ignored or actively attacked by Republicans.
So, how in God’s name can I ever consider these people for office? I don’t think they would do a single positive thing for me and they would be toxic for many people of my acquaintance.
Danny said on September 24, 2012 at 11:10 am
All kidding aside, in Germany, I have heard that the government takes a very strong role in promoting research and development within industry. There is a technical consortium that only German companies can belong to. Can’t remember the acronym just now.
LAMary said on September 24, 2012 at 11:15 am
Alex, I’ve lived in LA for about 30 years and trust, you’re not paycheck to paycheck here on 250k. If you choose to live in a neighborhood with houses that start around 600k, maybe, but there are lots of places that aren’t that high and are certainly livable. Real estate took a pretty big hit here. Gas prices are high, but food is relatively cheap, and heating bills are nearly non exisitent. Other than real estate, which is admittedly a lot higher than it is in most cities, the other thing that kills me is car insurance. In fact anything to do with cars is high.
Sue said on September 24, 2012 at 11:19 am
I don’t think anyone’s mentioned that screwing the workforce has become accepted business practice in the US, above and beyond the argument that we can’t be labor-competitive in the US no matter what we do. From Think Progress regarding Caterpillar’s recent behavior:
“Despite earning a record $4.9 billion profit last year and projecting even better results for 2012, the company is insisting on a six-year wage freeze and a pension freeze for most of the 780 production workers at its factory here. Caterpillar says it needs to keep its labor costs down to ensure its future competitiveness. […]
Caterpillar, which has significantly raised its executives’ compensation because of its strong profits, defended its demands, saying many unionized workers were paid well above market rates.”
Yes, anyone paid above market rates needs to be brought down to the market rates that companies themselves are lowering even as market rates for executives continue to remain steady or climb. Nancy asks, in reference to factory workers, “what are we going to do with you”. Apparently, whatever we damn well please.
And JWfromNJ, I don’t watch Treme, sorry, but I must say that I had to turn off Wallander last night on Masterpiece Theater, finally giving up into the third episode. I don’t need animal torture on top of a mopey hero whom I am asked to believe is somehow so brilliant that his coworkers put up with behavior that keeps putting him and others in danger. Too bad, MT is the only TV indulgence I insist on for myself but sometimes the series they choose seem to be trying to affirm something that’s not there.
Charlotte said on September 24, 2012 at 11:28 am
My manager told me this week that the Big Corporation for whom I used to work, and for whom I now contract, has a new policy that contractors can only stick around for a year. She didn’t seem to understand that this is because it’s AGAINST THE LAW to use contractors as employees, something Big Corporation has been doing for ages. I’ll be protected though, she told me, because I technically work for the company we use to hire translators — so they’ll just take my name off all the contracts on the Big Corporation side. Whatever — this gig works for me because they don’t own my whole life, but really, just because it works for me personally doesn’t mean it isn’t and shouldn’t be, fucking illegal.
Cooking for a funeral here this morning — big pan of mac and cheese in the oven and I’m off soon to go help set up the luncheon. Not a close friend, but one of my circle of people. SIx weeks from diagnosis to today — leaving a husband and two sons who are just bereft. While it’s a sad occasion, I take enormous comfort in the fact that we all have this down. We know what to do and how to do it. I seem to have grown up to be one of those ladies who show up with a covered dish, and set up the tables, and make sure the bereaved get some carbs to make them feel temporarily a little better. And when my time comes — here’s hoping they’ll all be there for me. What I love best about my small town …
Joe K said on September 24, 2012 at 12:02 pm
Instead of raising taxes, we start cutting expenses. We could start with the Mideast pull out the military bring them home and use them to protect the borders,let the sand jockeys fight it out among themselfs and we will deal with whoever comes out on top in a few years. Now you can’t take that money that you have been borrowing to fund these wars and spend it on social programs because then you would still be spending borrowed money, we have to quit spending money we don’t have, yea it’s tuff and some people are gonna suffer but 99 weeks unemployment? Come on, how about cutting it back to 52 weeks, that’s still a freaking year!! There are jobs out there,The city of Kendallville just had a factory close 140 people layed off there was a jobs fair last week. I know of 2 company’s that were there ready to hire, you know how many people showed up? 15!! And these were livable wage jobs. Biggest problem in hiring? Passing a drug test! Number 2? You mean I have to work Saturday? Give me a break, everybody can’t start at the top, you need to work your way to the top. I haven’t heard any candidate say there going to cut anything, bottom line, were freaking broke.
coozledad said on September 24, 2012 at 12:14 pm
If you’re going to use racial slurs, you’ve got to use them correctly. It’s not “sand jockeys”, it’s sand niggers or camel jockeys. If you mix the two you’re effectively losing the dehumanizing magic of the slur.
We can’t leave the middle east because hahahaha oil. Remember that stuff?
We’ve got plenty of money. The banksters stole it. We just carve it back out of their ass by taxing them or by a debt moratorium.
Their money is a fucking fiction anyway.
Catherine said on September 24, 2012 at 12:32 pm
Charlotte, I know exactly how you feel. I am becoming my grandmother — in times of crisis, bring food. It is not enough, but it kind of is.
And the contracting situation you describe is absolutely widespread in the entertainment industry here in LA. Completely illegal, and completely business as usual. So many ways around the rules, and little or no enforcement so rarely does anyone get caught. Makes the productivity numbers look better to the stockholders, because contractors don’t count as employees.
alex said on September 24, 2012 at 12:37 pm
Yeah, Joe, right. There’s all these jobs out there and nobody wants them because they’d rather collect welfare and smoke dope. And I’m the second coming of Christ.
We lost 9 million jobs in ’07-’08. In the last four years we’ve regained 4.5 million of them. The fact is simply that there are more people than there are jobs. The number of lazy bums who don’t want to work is infinitessimally small compared to the number of people who need to work and can’t. Anyone who pretends that people would rather live on the shit that is unemployment benefits than have a real job is just full of it.
coozledad said on September 24, 2012 at 12:53 pm
Joe Kobiela said on September 24, 2012 at 1:09 pm
Read Sundays auburn paper
Sue said on September 24, 2012 at 1:21 pm
Joe, are you talking about some kind of job fair that these two companies had? Or what? Here are some recent Milwaukee-area attempts to match people with jobs:
Kenosha County: 45 employers, 629 job seekers
West Allis (targeted to manufacturing): 72/2000
Racine (targeted to young adults): 18/418
Deborah said on September 24, 2012 at 1:24 pm
Well, I gotta say if I was on a plane that had a fire going on while I was in it I would be in full panic mode for sure. If it got to the point where I was chocking and rubbing my eyes I would be ready to bail, so I feel for Mrs. Romney.
One more Monday to go after this one!
Joe K said on September 24, 2012 at 1:29 pm
I’m not sure, when I get home from this trip I will try
To post the story, it’s a good read, by the way if your by the Palwakee airport, the
Rise and dine diner on Milwaukee has really good 7 grain Pancakes.
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 24, 2012 at 1:31 pm
Alex, thou art God. (Namaste, grok, etc.)
Jolene, I think you pegged it on the German plan, which would in this country evoke the anguished cry of “Socialism!” Aiiieeee.
But you can still reframe Maggie Thatcher’s quote to say “The problem with open-ended promises based on the public coffers is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.” I really have no problem with socialism — I’d better not, since we have a fair amount of it in our country hidden under various complex labels, but still — it’s just the structuring of how we pay for it. There’s a non-trivial space for reasoned discussion about whether or not heavy corporate and investment taxes ultimately are neutral, let alone good for the economy, or if they invariably end up dragging a civic entity into stagnation and severer limits than those inflicted by free-market creative destruction.
Bitter Scribe said on September 24, 2012 at 1:59 pm
Alex @#6: I predict that in the debate, Romney will just regurgitate whatever talking point he’s memorized that’s vaguely related to a given question. It’s the default mode for politicians who don’t really have facts, logic or critical thinking skills going for them.
(I’m not ignoring your great comment #27. It’s just that there’s nothing more to add.)
coozledad said on September 24, 2012 at 2:01 pm
“The problem with maintaining civic infrastructure for the benefit of the speculator class at the expense of the materials producing classes while simultaneously permitting the speculator class to avoid the repercussions of their own bad decision making is just a roundabout way of lugging the guillotine back onto the public square. But hey, whatever works.”
-A guy with a pitchfork
Sue said on September 24, 2012 at 2:04 pm
So yesterday I made a sweet annie wreath. I don’t know if it was the drought this year, but by the end of the summer I had several sweet annie TREES, taller than me and bursting with lovely scented sweet annie goodness. I was working away, pulling big bunches of sweet annie off the branches and feeling all Martha Stewart-y when I saw the biggest bug I have ever seen in my life outside of Florida. Holy gods we are not supposed to grow anything that big in Wisconsin. It was a preying mantis or grasshopper or something and if it had been growing on Mitt Romney’s property he could have put a saddle on it and called it a tax deduction, it was that big. Really.
Ok, maybe not that big, but it was about 4 inches long and I almost grabbed it. I almost grabbed it, people. The shriek I let out surprised both me and the neighbor’s dog. I carefully walked that particular branch over to the other side of the yard and hoped it wouldn’t follow me back.
The sweet annie wreath is huge and weighs a ton. I hope there’s not a racoon in there or something.
beb said on September 24, 2012 at 2:07 pm
The problem of trying to solve the deficit through cut-backs in government spending is that we’ve been doing that, or more less, since Reagan blew a whole in the budget with his tax cuts. A) there’s not much left to cut B) and there’s too much cutting required to balance the budget.
Bugging out of Afghanistan would save us a lot of money, but not when compared to the annual debt. Even if we withdrew our standing armies in Germany and Japan (and what those troops doing there anyway?) that still wouldn’t reduce the deficit by much. Mothballing a couple of our Aircraft carrier fleets would save us a lot of money and probably aren’t necessary for our defense. We could also stop buying billion dollar fighter planes. The next work is going to be fought with drones anyway. We don’t need high tech craft that, frankly, are too expensive to use.
Social Security and Medicare are pre-paid services the government has contracted with its citizens. Changing the rules on them now amounts to stealing the money we’ve already paid into them. 99 Weeks of unemployment? I think normally it was only 26 weeks, but was increased to 52 week because of the recession then raised to 99 weeks because too many people weren’t finding jobs. You take away that unemployment and not only do you cast people into poverty but you cripple grocery stores that the unemployed people spend their unemployment check to buy the food they need to eat. Keynesian economics works because we can see the failures in Britain, Ireland, Greece and Spain. The more austerity these countries pursue the worse their economies gets. Cuting spending isn’t the answer; it’s the worse possible thing you can do during a recession.
Joe K said on September 24, 2012 at 2:13 pm
So what do you propose? If Obama gets the tax raised, the amount that gets brought in last the government 8 days at the current spending rate.
mark said on September 24, 2012 at 2:14 pm
Ireland, Greece and Spain had austerity programs? When? They ran out of people willing to loan them money.
alex said on September 24, 2012 at 2:23 pm
Because the Auburn paper has a paywall, I’m pasting the article referenced by Joe here in its entirety. Discuss.
I can see where Joe gets his opinions. However, I also know people who work for WorkOne in Auburn who would tell you that it’s near impossible to recruit workers for some of these crappy sweatshops because so few people have the level of physical fitness being demanded and are willing to work for the shit pay in the shit conditions. One such place is the Therma-Tru Door Company in the town of Butler, where maybe one of twenty new candidates lasts more than a few days and OSHA compliance is a joke.
Good help is hard to find
By Matt Getts firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, September 23, 2012, 12:00am
In October 2007, Indiana’s unemployment rate stood at 4.6 percent, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.
In August 2012, the latest month for such statistics, Indiana’s unemployment rate was 8.3 percent.
DeKalb and Noble counties had unemployment levels higher than the state average in August, with Steuben just below the average at 8.2 percent.
With all those unemployed workers, why did a human resources manager at a prominent northeastern manufacturer admit his company has considered expanding its operations outside the state instead of expanding locally?
The human resource manager, who asked that his company not be identified, said the consideration has been made “only because we have tapped out the work force” in northeastern Indiana.
In short, the company is concerned with being able to hire enough workers — and have them stick around — to be able to meet its growing production needs.
Steuben County Economic Development director Dave Koenig said that scenario is upsetting.
“It’s alarming,” Koenig said. “It’s disappointing.”
“We have more openings than we have people who want to work,” said Lori Melchi, a senior staffing specialist at Pro Resources’ Auburn office. “It’s really rough to try to recruit.”
Jamie Bell, human resources manager at Guardian Industries in Ligonier, said the lack of people willing to work is definitely a problem and has adversely affected production.
“There’s nobody to hire,” said Lori Busche, human resources manager at Busche Enterprises. “We’re sitting on 30 job openings.”
Kendallville Mayor Suzanne Handshoe shared Koenig’s concern with what has become a trend for area industry.
“It’s just unbelievable that that’s where we’re at right now,” Handshoe said. “It’s very troubling.”
Not all companies have experienced such troubles, however.
CTA Acoustics in Orland is setting up shop and made its first 19 scheduled hires Aug. 4. More than a month later, four have been lost to attrition. Plant manager Jason Boggs said that is within the range of turnover the company expected to see.
“Of the employees we have left, out of the first group, they are all eager to learn and glad to be part of the local work force,” Boggs said in a written statement. “Most of them have strong manufacturing backgrounds.”
But not everyone is eager to get back to work.
In July, JCIM corporate officials in Plymouth, Mich., announced the company would close its manufacturing facility in Kendallville’s East Industrial Park on Aug. 31 with the loss of approximately 170 jobs.
On Sept. 15, a job fair was held in Kendallville to help make those 170 employees aware of other companies that were hiring in the area.
Busche Enterprises set up a booth, hoping to fill some of its 30 job openings. Lori Busche said only approximately 12 of JCIM’s 170 workers showed up to learn about other job opportunities. Her staff left the fair with two submitted resumes. She said it was the worst turnout she’s ever seen at a job fair.
“The work force is not what it used to be. It’s hard to find people to work,” Busche said.
Numerous factors have created an atmosphere of a lack of a good, stable work force, according to various company officials, including a poor overall work ethic, the 99 weeks in which some workers can collect unemployment and the availability of so many jobs that workers often skip from job to job.
Poor work ethic
Kent York, owner of M & S Steel in Garrett, said it’s frustrating to see the poor work habits of some workers, adding it’s particularly noticeable with those who are between the ages of 20 and 35.
“They don’t come to work every day,” York said. “They don’t have the work ethic. They’re not stupid. They’re talented. Their work ethic is not reliable.”
Busche and Bell also cited work ethic as a huge factor in the struggle to find reliable workers, much more so than any lack of technical expertise.
“We believe we can train you, but you have to have the right attitude,” Guardian Industries’ Bell said. “The work ethic is just not there.”
She said some workers come to the plant with an “it’s-all-about-me” attitude, and said there is simply a lack of people who want to work.
“We can’t hire the people to run the machines,” Busche said. “They only want to work two to three days a week.”
Many workers are being picky when it comes to returning to the work force because they are getting unemployment benefits. Melchi said some workers have realized they can stay at home, avoid paying for day care and make as much money as returning to work.
“We can’t get them in the door until they’re out” of unemployment benefits, Melchi said.
“If they keep extending benefits, why should they go back to work?” Busche said.
Melchi said some people simply have adapted to doing with less, while others rely on food stamps and other subsistence programs to shore up the difference between what they were making as workers and the unemployment benefits they now have.
During one factory tour, Handshoe said, she heard from one factory official, “Our biggest competitor is the U.S. government. You have to to turn off unemployment.”
The multitude of jobs
With a good number of jobs available, some workers have grown finicky, Melchi said, requesting only first-shift work or saying they won’t take a job if overtime is involved.
When jobs are scarce, some people will put up with working odd hours or putting in extra mandatory time, Melchi said. When they know they can find work elsewhere, they are less likely to persevere.
If a better job does come along, some workers simply never show up to work the next day. Companies then have to go through the expense of hiring and training new workers.
The end result of struggling to fill job openings could lead to at least one area firm expanding elsewhere, and the ripple effect could hit cities and towns hard.
Handshoe said she tells people who oppose providing tax abatements for new or expanding industries that one industry pays pretty much the same amount of taxes as 100 homeowners.
“Industry carries our load for taxes,” Handshoe said.
Trying to right the ship
Busche said her company is making its production goals, but the lack of enough workers has strained the current staff. Some workers are working 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
Companies have taken new approaches to try and maintain their work forces.
In the past, Guardian Industries in Ligonier offered workers a $1 per hour raise after they had put in a year of good work. In July, company officials shortened the time period for getting the $1 boost to six months.
Koenig said economic development groups are working to solve the work force issue.
Thursday, a Steuben County Workforce Development Summit will be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Lake James Ballroom at the Potawatomi Inn at Pokagon State Park. The event will include a panel discussion led by representatives from Ivy Tech Northeast, Trine University, WorkOne Northeast and the Four County Area Vocational Cooperative.
Handshoe said the Four County Vocational Cooperative could play a pivotal role in exciting young people about the living they can make with a marketable trade skill in industry.
Something needs to be done, before companies do start to look elsewhere.
“It is a serious issue,” Koenig said. “The solution isn’t going to be quickly or easily achieved.”
coozledad said on September 24, 2012 at 2:29 pm
No, the bankers pissed away all the money, so governments effectively printed more money for them to burn. There’s never room to spend money where it can do some good when the priority is funding whore parties for the people who fucked everything up to begin with.
This is only a mildly reductionist take on the whole “we’re strangled by debt” bogeyman. The Republicans always haul him out when they’re not busy starting a few wars or lighting more money on fire.
Jen said on September 24, 2012 at 2:45 pm
The story that Pilot Joe is talking about is behind a pay wall, but if you’re interested in paying for access the link is: http://www.kpcnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=44240
A few of the relevant quotes from the article:
Jamie Bell, human resources manager at Guardian Industries in Ligonier, said the lack of people willing to work is definitely a problem and has adversely affected production.
“There’s nobody to hire,” said Lori Busche, human resources manager at Busche Enterprises. “We’re sitting on 30 job openings.
On Sept. 15, a job fair was held in Kendallville to help make those 170 employees [who had just lost their jobs when JCIM in Kendallville closed] aware of other companies that were hiring in the area.
Busche Enterprises set up a booth, hoping to fill some of its 30 job openings. Lori Busche said only approximately 12 of JCIM’s 170 workers showed up to learn about other job opportunities. Her staff left the fair with two submitted resumes. She said it was the worst turnout she’s ever seen at a job fair.
“The work force is not what it used to be. It’s hard to find people to work,” Busche said.
The biggest problems the people interviewed cite are:
* Lack of work ethic. Bell says people have an “it’s-all-about-me” attitude, and Busche says people only want to work 2-3 days a week.
* Collecting unemployment instead of going back to work. Lauri Melchi at Pro Resources, a staffing service in Auburn, said they can’t get people in the door until they’re out of unemployment benefits. From the article: “Melchi said some people simply have adapted to doing with less, while others rely on food stamps and other subsistence programs to shore up the difference between what they were making as workers and the unemployment benefits they now have.”
* The multitude of jobs. From the article: “With a good number of jobs available, some workers have grown finicky, Melchi said, requesting only first-shift work or saying they won’t take a job if overtime is involved.”
Now, I don’t know if northeast Indiana is unique in its problems or not, but this is what we’ve been hearing from employers around here. I know there have to be areas of the country where there just aren’t jobs … but, at least from the employers’ perspective, it also seems like, as Alex put it, there are people who would “rather collect welfare and smoke dope,” at least in northeast Indiana.
I will say that this article is kind of frustrating to me because my husband has been having a hell of a time getting employers (including a couple mentioned in the article) to call him back. After five years of dealing with shit in social work, he lost his job and decided not to go back into the field. With a college degree and five years of experience, though, no manufacturer will touch him. Their loss, since he actually has a darn good work ethic AND would be perfectly happy working second or third shift. Thankfully he has a friend whose family’s business had a seasonal warehouse job open up, and it looks like it might turn into a permanent position. (Our fingers are crossed.)
I think there are a lot of factors in play here. In my peers especially (people in their 20s), I see a lot of people who don’t want to work their way up. It’s not entirely a negative, because there’s a sense that talent and intelligence should be weighed along with the number of years you’ve put in somewhere, and I think that’s true. But experience should count for something too, and I don’t think people (especially younger people) always value that. But there needs to be a balance, where people do have the opportunity to work their way up if they’re a better, smarter, harder worker than the guy who has been doing the minimum for 25 years.
We’ve also had a shift in the employer-employee relationship. It used to be that you worked for a company your entire life and retired on the pension they gave you and everything was lovely. But now, people move around to different jobs more, retirement benefits are drying up and, therefore, there isn’t the same level of loyalty – on both sides of the fence. A company doesn’t feel loyal to a worker because they know they don’t have them for life, and a worker doesn’t feel as loyal to a company because they know the company doesn’t have their back for life. We can argue whether that’s good or bad until we’re blue in the face, but that’s the way it is. It’s a different world than it was when my grandfather retired.
The point of this rambling post, I think, is that the economic issues in the U.S. are INCREDIBLY complicated and diverse … which means we’re going to need a multifaceted approach to tackle the problem, as well as a government that isn’t paralyzed by a lack of bipartisan cooperation. Whoever is elected president and whoever ends up in Congress after this election better be ready to actually work together. But I won’t hold my breath for that!
nancy said on September 24, 2012 at 2:48 pm
Let me also caution anyone to consider: These are employers talking, and there are two sides to every story. What Alex said about miserable and demanding workplaces is at least something worth considering.
Heather said on September 24, 2012 at 2:52 pm
And note they don’t say how much they pay, either.
nancy said on September 24, 2012 at 2:58 pm
This seems to pertain:
…(W)hat we can say for sure is that Indiana has tried the other approach — reduced government spending, lower taxes, fiscal restraint, cuts in education, repressed wages — and the result is a steadily declining standard of living for most Hoosiers.
At first, this doesn’t make sense. Businesses, we are told, want low taxes, low costs, fewer regulations, less social responsibility. A state offering these pluses is bound to attract businesses, right?
Right — but the wrong businesses. As Renn points out eloquently, the businesses who are most concerned about saving money on taxes and wages are low-cost, low-wage businesses that care only about costs, not quality. High-value businesses care about costs, too, of course, he says, but they also want and need “a highly-educated work force, global connectivity, an entrepreneurial mindset and ecosystem……It’s hard to grow your life sciences industry without getting more life scientists.”
Sherri said on September 24, 2012 at 3:03 pm
We, as a country, made a series of policy choices that meant that factory jobs did not stay in the US. Some of those policy choices benefited quite a few people at the expense of factory workers (free trade), others benefited the high end at the expense of the middle and working class (tax cuts, deregulation of finance.) US productivity has increased something like 80% since 1980, but wage income has stagnated; most of the benefits of that productivity have gone to capital, not labor, or to the CEO class. Finance, or the moving around of money rather than creation and innovation, was up to about 40% of our economy at the time of the crash.
Our myth of the individual also plays into this. We have this picture of innovation and creation happening from the lone individual working in the startup; the reality is that innovation seldom happens from a lone genius working out of his garage. I’ve read two articles in the last couple of months attempting to claim that the Internet was invented by some entity other than the government; both were more interested in advancing an agenda than in relating history. We’ve cut back government investment in science substantially over the last 30 years.
We complain about our schools not scoring as well on international tests, but we don’t want to make the investment in schools that the higher scoring countries do. We worry about being competitive with China, but we don’t want to make the investment in infrastructure that China does. We talk about creating jobs, but the only thing we’re willing to do is to shower money on “job-creators,” which doesn’t actually create jobs.
“Creative destruction” is pretty much the same thing as destroying the village to save it. Anybody promoting it is almost certainly someone who doesn’t expect to be in the village.
Mitt Romney’s 47% remark could have been made by Andrew Mellon in the Hoover Administration. His policies didn’t work then, and those policies won’t work now.
Sue said on September 24, 2012 at 3:03 pm
Joe/alex, that’s an interesting article, but equally interesting is that the reporter did not seem to get any quotes from the lazy workers. If this is just an issue of noble employers and lazy workers, then there’s some kind of Brigadoon situation going on there, a weird magical warp. I’d love to know where else in the country employers are crying for workers because available workers are lazy, unreliable and unrealistic. That, basically, was the tone of the article.
I’ve mentioned before that my second job is contract cleaning in a factory. I see all ages of people working there, I see the same people every night (so no huge turnover issue), and I see a surprising number of people working with some kind of what I would call disability (lots of people limp or walk oddly, for instance). I’ve worked there for a year and for half that time there was a ‘not hiring’ sign on the door but no evidence of a production slowdown.
I live in an area with two industrial parks. They bus in workers from Milwaukee to meet the need, but that’s partly because we have no regional transportation authority for them to use to get here on their own; it’s a very local and vehicle-dependent situation. The city has worked in the past on affordable housing with mixed success.
Joe, I think you are being unfair with your blanket condemnation. I don’t see what the reporter describes around here and if it were the case, here in my conservative county the media would be all over it with articles just like that one.
Deborah said on September 24, 2012 at 3:29 pm
Sue, What’s sweet annie? Would love to see a picture of your wreath.
Also, very interesting thread here today about the job situation in the country. I don’t know many facts about it but I have observed that younger people working at my company do not have the same work ethic that my generation had. These are all college educated people and many have graduate degrees. They don’t want to work long hours as often as we did and they want perks. Who wouldn’t? Not all of them are like this of course, you have the occasional workaholic, but not like I remember back when I was starting out and even as a more senior person. I think there are cultural and generational issues at play here too.
coozledad said on September 24, 2012 at 3:35 pm
Prospero said on September 24, 2012 at 3:36 pm
The real question we have about this year’s round of Presidential debates: Is Mittens gonna go with the brown makeup? WTF was up with that?
paddyo' said on September 24, 2012 at 3:42 pm
That jobs story will probably get plenty of echo-action around the InterWebNets, perhaps even to reach the lips of a few politicos. But it is so one-sided, so lacking in specifics (and yes, including even the simplest of reporter questions and employer answers about how much they pay, whether they have benefits, etc.). Clearly, this reporter (and editor) have confused length with depth.
BTW, before it fades into the nn.com archives, a shout-out to Sue @ 36 for that gem of a line, hidden in the weeds (or was it the sprigs and sprays and branches?) of her “sweet Annie” story:
It was a preying mantis or grasshopper or something and if it had been growing on Mitt Romney’s property he could have put a saddle on it and called it a tax deduction, it was that big. Really.
Prospero said on September 24, 2012 at 3:47 pm
All of the folks quoted in that lengthy article have a serious “You kids get off my lawn” attitude.
When the great white dork trails the black guy among NASCAR fans, the white guy is in deep doodoo.Willard’s got the NASCAR owners though, for sure.
Bitter Scribe said on September 24, 2012 at 3:48 pm
My father was a General Motors autoworker for almost 20 years. It was an absolute shit job, a fact I learned from listening to and reading other people. (Dad never uttered a complaint, about work or anything else, in his life.) But guys did it because it paid well and there were union benefits and protections.
Now, apparently, a lot of employers offer shit jobs at shit pay and moan that no one wants them. Pardon me if I am less than sympathetic.
Heather said on September 24, 2012 at 3:54 pm
I don’t see younger people being particularly lazy or lacking a work ethic. The only thing I’ve noticed at my current job is that they expect promotions after a year.
As for not working long hours–well, I don’t want to work extra-long hours on a regular basis either. There are a lot of studies proving that working more than 40 hours a week is not productive and in fact ends up costing employers more in the long run. Plus, in our current work model where employers can drop employees at the drop of a hat, they’ve forfeited any expectation of loyalty or good will.
I mean, if you really want to work more than 40 hours a week and sacrifice your personal time and your sleep, go for it. But the whole “put in the hours to get ahead” is really short-sighted. Productivity is more than just hours worked.
Little Bird said on September 24, 2012 at 3:58 pm
I found this amusing: http://slacktory.com/2012/09/texts-from-mitt-romney/
mark said on September 24, 2012 at 4:04 pm
Productivity isn’t “hours worked” at all, it is a measurement of the amount produced with a given input of labor and capital. So what is it that these younger workers, whom you describe as holding no loyalty or good will toward their employer and expecting annual promotions, offer that makes them more productive than their older, longer working peers?
alex said on September 24, 2012 at 4:07 pm
Joe, Jen, others from these parts–
Perhaps the biggest job news around here in years, as we all know, was the opening of a Family Dollar distribution center in Ashley. Even Mitch Daniels was here to break ground on that one. I can’t find the numbers published anywhere offhand, but I recall that applicants outnumbered jobs there by something like ten to one. Maybe it was more than that.
I think that belies the central message in the Matt Getts story. Family Dollar is by no means glamorous or easy work, but it still beats the hell out of most low-wage employers around here and I know people would kill to get hired into that place. Seriously, if my only prospect was working at a place like Therma-Tru Doors, I’d sooner be on welfare.
Sue said on September 24, 2012 at 4:13 pm
Deborah, here’s info on sweet annie and a picture of a sweet annie wreath, mine looks similar and I hope it dries correctly. I am long past the herb stage of my gardening life (most are either too weedlike either in looks or behavior for my taste) but most of what I have kept on are highly scented (lavender, mints, anise hyssop, sweet annie)
Heather said on September 24, 2012 at 4:26 pm
Mark, I didn’t say the younger workers were less or more productive than older workers. I was making a general point–I think the emphasis on working long hours as the major indicator of whether someone is working hard is misguided.
LAMary said on September 24, 2012 at 4:30 pm
I should send some of the people who apply where I work to Ms Busche. If I post an unskilled job I’ll get 100-150 applicants in one night.
Deborah said on September 24, 2012 at 4:51 pm
Heather and Mark, agreed working longer hours isn’t necessarily an indicator of how hard someone is working. But I know for a fact in my industry they do fewer iterations of designs, they show you 2 or 3 instead of 10 or 20. They expect that is enough but it’s not. They go back to the drawing board and come up with 2 or 3 more and so on. It takes a lot of working it out for the end product to be high quality. It just does.
Deborah said on September 24, 2012 at 4:54 pm
Can’t edit, so I’ll add here. I think this is a generational thing in the design world. Many of these kids were raised in such a way that they feel that their shit doesn’t stink, they heard “good job” way too often.
So get off my lawn…
brian stouder said on September 24, 2012 at 5:07 pm
First, Ms Deborah, I apologize and will stay off your lawn! Please don’ call my mom, eh? (the ‘mom network’ back in the neighborhood I grew up in was lightening fast, even depending soley on land-line, dial-up, kitchen-mounted telephones!)
Second – I agree with whoever said Sue won the thread; the big bug was great! (or the great bug was wonderful, or whatever)
And finally, if “free trade” means: always squeeze out the lowest cost in the world, on everything – and always sell for the highest price you can get….then, looking at China-2012, and the working conditions in the big factories there, mercantilism and colonialism was certainly more humane, as wealth tended to flow outward, reaching more working people. Our modern system seems to channel all the wealth into an exceedingly narrow strata of global players, and hurts people who work (including children) – everywhere – badly.
To be honest, the national debt numbers never bother me, at all.
In the vast, dark, cold emptiness of God’s Creation, our galaxy is a spec, and our solar system is an atom, and our world is a subatomic particle, and (rephrasing “we owe it to ourselves”) this economic game we play is really about people eating, and staying warm in the winter, and maybe getting a little help when their babies are born or when sickness comes. If the game occasionally needs reset, then let’s do it. But I don’t think one of God Almighty Herownself’s questions, when we meet her, will be “Why didn’t you support a national balanced budget?”
Sue said on September 24, 2012 at 5:17 pm
A year or so ago we had to take some training as part of the usual ‘let’s get along’ anti-harassment training packages we go to once a year. It was intended to help us understand the generational differences among the workforce and seemed to me ridiculously stereotypical. Oldest generation – slaves to authority. Boomers – entitled. Next one – something something (I can’t remember). Newest group – clueless to businesslike relationships and casually disrespectful of management. I thought it was ridiculous on two levels, first that anyone would do any of the obvious things shown in the video that would endanger their job in this economy, and two, that it was so boxy in the way it categorized workers. The thing that sent me over the edge was the skit where the newest-generation worker was busy, eyes down, checking her phone during a serious discussion with her supervisor. What?? Really?? Both of my kids are that age, they bust their butts and would never do anything that rude or that stupid.
Except when I asked my daughter about it, she said, in effect: yeah? so?
She didn’t see anything wrong with it at all. I was floored. She works her tail off at two jobs, is well respected, and didn’t get what I found so appalling about this.
So, get off my lawn, I guess. Who knew?
basset said on September 24, 2012 at 5:21 pm
And now for something completely different… I mentioned PARK(ing) Day last week, an event where volunteers make temporary mini-parks out of parking spaces. Here’s how ours looked in Nashville, complete with a guitar-scrubbing street musician… my group did the one with the grass:
Sue said on September 24, 2012 at 5:26 pm
basset, how did that ever get an approval? I would think taking away parking spaces in a metro area, even for a day, would set off all sorts of fireworks.
Prospero said on September 24, 2012 at 5:56 pm
basset, those photos are terrific, but I’m not seeing any pot plants.
Employers used to exhibit some responsibility for employees, but that is pretty much long gone. If the bosses don’t give a FF about the employees, why should they expect respect in return. As far as “job creation” what an unmitigated crock o’crap. I’m with A. Lincoln on the relationship between labor and capital. Boomers–entitlled? Seems like it was their parents generation that got all the goodies. People didn’t come home from Vietnam to that sort of GI Bill that provided free college and incredibly low cost mortgages.
coozledad said on September 24, 2012 at 6:40 pm
Didn’t the Romney campaign have a promotion for naming their campaign jet?
Air Romney’s on fire
Better open up a window
perhaps the servants
are in the bathroom smoking indo
Air Romney’s on fire
And the Ryan boy’s a’ bitching
He’s gone commando
And his fire hose is itching
Campaign staffers panic
Do your best to change perceptions
someone’s laid a floater
in the punch at the reception
release cabin pressure
perhaps the wind will stop the burning
You’ll get your damned bonus
regardless of which way it’s turning
We’re scouting for flotsam
In the sea where we are ditching
the pilot is yawing
when he really should be pitching
Bain capital managed
to be clever with the numbers
selling off pickles
and leaving employees cucumbers
Bain invests in brine
And when cucumbers are in oestrus
they ship them to China
It is a windfall for investors
Air Romney’s on fire!
And here’s a physicist to explain
how objects behave
sucked through the windows of a jet plane.
alex said on September 24, 2012 at 7:27 pm
On a jet plane
When I’ll come to again
Joe K said on September 24, 2012 at 7:44 pm
And so lies the problem.
LAMary said on September 24, 2012 at 7:49 pm
We had some guy who was supposed to be an expert at recruiting the new generations speak at a healthcare recruiters meeting. He told us that the millenials wanted to be shown jobs that were fun and playful and had flexible schedules. That this generation grew up on lots of apps and interactive games and expected the technology in the workplace to be like that. I hire hospice nurses and social workers for palliative care. I hire oncology certified RNs. I’m not saying that every moment of their workdays is grim, but playful?
JWfromNJ said on September 24, 2012 at 8:35 pm
Coozledad – Interesting article on MSNBC.com about Romney’s plane – The press corp refers to it as “Hair Force One.”
coozledad said on September 24, 2012 at 8:51 pm
JWfromNJ: Is this guy from Orlando?
At least he’s an actual job creator, with extensive experience in the private sector.
basset said on September 24, 2012 at 9:04 pm
Sue, we just arranged to have the meters bagged for a day, same as if there were a video shoot, foot race, whatever other routine event was happening. Only used fifteen spaces in all of downtown, and the consensus response was, as far as I could tell, along the lines of “This is great! Are you gonna leave it there?”
Prospero, no pot plants but those planters are pretty solid, anyone who shows up drunk on their bike with a grocery bag full of liquor is gonna break some bottles.
Suzanne said on September 24, 2012 at 9:28 pm
I’m sure there are lazy people out there who don’t want to work, but I have met very few. I have a college degree, actually 2, and have struggled the past 4 years to find work. Right now, part-time is all I can scare up. I’ve sent out hundreds of resumes and have probably heard back from maybe 1%. I have 20+ years of experience and a great work record, but nary a nibble. I’m not alone. A friend of mine, mid-50s, former cop can’t even get a phone call for something as simple as a security guard. And if you have a period of unemployment on your resume, you can kiss your chances good-bye as many, many employers won’t even consider someone who is currently unemployed. So maybe the fault is not all the lazy bum no-good so and so workers.
A former co-worker, who was let go when her position was changed, can’t find another job. She’d happily sign up for temp work, but has a child to support and temp work @ $10 an hour that would maybe last a few months would knock her out of unemployment. Once the temp job ended, she’d have nothing. She hates that she doesn’t have a job, hates taking government money, but what are her choices? She, too, has a degree of some sort (business, I think) but can’t get past the online application systems which scan for keyword, certain schools, and God only knows what else. She has applied for hundreds of jobs, but hears back from very few. She’s articulate, intelligent, personable, and very reliable, but no one seems to want her. Now, she’s been unemployed for several months, the resume kiss of death.
I don’t doubt that there are jobs out there that go unfilled, but often, it’s because of the ridiculous hiring practices of businesses. I don’t think many of them know what they want, and they think it’s cheaper to hire nobody, so they don’t. A friend of mine recently told me of a former co-worker who committed suicide over fears of being “let go” and not finding another job.
I’m so tired of the unemployed or underemployed being stigmatized as lazy. If we are going to whine about people taking too much unemployment and food stamps, then I guess we need to mandate that businesses hire those that do apply. Because right now, they often are not.
Jolene said on September 24, 2012 at 10:41 pm
I, too, get a bit tired of these sad songs from employers. The worst is the “only employed persons need apply” stipulations. Now there’s pitching in to solve our national problems. And it is certainly true that people in hiring don’t think they have to show the slightest respect to applicants. The last time I looked for a job, there were many instances in which I didn’t get even an emailed acknowledgment of my application, but, even worse, some of the places I interviewed didn’t give me the courtesy of a response.
I’m mixed on the issue of skills, I guess. The national and international studies of test scores can’t all be wrong, and they are not good. But when employers talk about skills, I think they are mainly talking about direct experience doing a particular kind of work. If they aren’t finding those skills, seems like they might need to invest in some kind of training. If they’re not willing to contribute to creating the labor force they need, they’re little better than a person who is seeking a new job but is unwilling to invest in education or consider a move to find work.
brian stouder said on September 24, 2012 at 11:13 pm
The national and international studies of test scores can’t all be wrong
Well – comparisons of “standardized” test results of other countries versus the United States generally strike me as plainly disingenuous.
Show me the methodology behind determining aggregation of these scores, nation by nation. How many of these countries simply pitch kids out of their schools (and therefore out of the testing scores) as soon as the student shows that he’s no great shakes at school-work and testing?
I’m heartily sick of seeing multinational oil companies (Exxon, for example), who churn out billions of dollars of profit for themselves each week, exhorting us to “get this done” or imploring “Let’s do this”. Here’s an idea – pay your taxes and give up your (unneeded) subsidies, eh?
Colleen said on September 25, 2012 at 12:21 am
Suzanne @74, we have similar experiences. I’m working a ten dollar an hour job at a hospital because it was the only full time with benefits job I could find after 2 years of searching. I had a career, nearly 20 years long, and it’s gone. I’m back in school to find another career, and hope it works out. Because you can’t really live well on ten bucks an hour.
ROGirl said on September 25, 2012 at 6:17 am
Suzanne, I’ve been in very similar circumstances: 2 degrees, out of work for a long time before I finally snagged one of those low paying jobs. I currently have a full-time job that pays a bit more, but am making less than I was 16 years ago.