“Moving South” and NAFTA

When I was growing up and into the 70s and 80s, my home area of Northeast Ohio was booming…the steel mills in Cleveland and Lorain were blasting night and day, round-the-clock shifts, and there were plenty of good-paying jobs in the mills and in auto manufacturing plants.   THEN the plants started to close and move down South….no, not to Mexico then, but to Alabama and Georgia .   The cause (they told us) was the labor unions guaranteeing good-pay and benefits and decent working safety conditions.
 “Illegal” workers picked tomatoes, worked on ranches in the broiling southwest sun, and worked laborer construction jobs and washed dishes and mopped floors in restaurants and hospitals etc, etc.   Ranchers hired these “pickers” because local-white boys would not do these jobs.         They also worked as nannies and housekeepers for our well-to-do,
NAFTA has provided a free-for-all atmosphere that harmed American workers.    The worst I personally know of is that NAFTA decimated the Mexican farmer corn business….flooding the Mexican markets with American corn.   An even greater atrocity is that under NAFTA came the genitically-modified corn itself, which was treated to prevent re-growth from seed.
The so-called “maquiladoras” throughout Mexico hired cheap and mistreated labor…big companies like Tommy Hilfiger and The Gap.   I have seen these with my own eyes, workers stand for long shifts, begging for bathroom breaks, standing at sewing machines (etc.) for 12-14 hour shifts on tiled concrete floors.   Yes, these people ARE glad to get the work at any price.
These points are just a few, and may be arbitrary…..but are facts.   .  TRUE FACTS, not Alternate Facts.

4 thoughts on ““Moving South” and NAFTA

  1. You touch on an underlying rift in economic perspectives — one that looks to labor versus the investors, who have been reaping the benefits of improved productivity and tax breaks. (We can invoke Bernie and the One Percent here.) Essentially, it depends on whose numbers you’re looking at — the economy as a whole, perhaps from a Wall Street point of view, in contrast to the Main Street and back roads you know so well.
    As a native of Ohio, I’ve experienced the devastation you describe, and run with it in my novel “Hometown News.”
    I keep hoping for a better ending.

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    1. I have read your novel “Hometown News,” on which I have commented elsewhere….I bought it, and read it, and loved it….I “knew those people” your characters…having worked on a paper just like HN back in 1970s-80s, for 19 years.

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      1. yes! It is so frustrating to recognize a speeding train and not being able to convince people to get off the train tracks. my god to think of the awful scenarios developing and being told we are just “old folks” reliving the Cold War. Someone very close to me, a well-educated person, told me the other day that they did not realize what divisions were made after WWII, and why the Soviet Bloc formed? OK, so I’m a Historian. Do they not teach any History in school any more? I know that answer to that: some do, some don’t. Knowledge is relative and selective….bah humbug!

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