Below are highlights from early- to mid-1980s journalism on manufacturing jobs losses and automation. What are the connections among the strategies? Also, what’s fallacious fear appeal and supportable fear appeal? Look for keywords that reflect the discussions we’ve had about us vs them, survival, apocalyptic terms, etc.
Townsend, Ed. Those New ‘Steel Collar’ Workers Have American Unions Worried.” Christian Science Monitor, 11 Feb 1981, p. 3.
- para 3: “Unions complain that ‘tens of thousands of jobs will disappear’ in industries able to use computer-controlled machinery….widespread use of robots poses the threat of ‘large-scale, permanent unemployment, a degradation of skills, and new work hazards.'”
- para 9: According to “Richard Beecher, head of GM’s machine perception and robotics department….Jobs will be lost, he admits, but ‘there will be no jobs for any of us unless we use the technology; we will all be driven out of the market by our competitors.'”
- para 12: “A GE official denies that robots have cause any major cutbacks in jobs. Instead, he says, in the years ahead robotics will open up tens of thousands of new jobs.”
- This is a common refrain that new technology means new jobs: renewable energy leads to jobs in that sector.
Cyert, Richard M. and Ben Fischer. “If US Manufacturing Is to Survive.” Christian Science Monitor. 7 Sept 1983, p. 23. (Atkins)
What’s interesting about this article are the titles of the two authors: Richard M. Cyert is president of Carnegie-Mellon University and an economist. Ben Fischer, formerly a negotiator with the United Steelworkers of America, is director of CMU’s Center for Labor Studies.
- para 2: “The objective of an increasing number of firms is going to be survival. That survival is at least as important to labor as it is to the owners of capital.”
- para 3: “Somehow, both labor and management must recognize that without improvements in productivity jobs will disappear because the firm will disappear.”
- para 7: “Improved equipment for inspection and measurement of quality must be purchased and utilized even if it means replacing jobs.”
- para 8: “Ways of making the worker a stockholder of the company must be examined. We must investigate and utilize every method to dramatize labor’s identification with the success of the firm as the key to the success of labor.”
- I need to check another source for this (I used Newsbank) to make sure that reads “stockholder” and not “stakeholder.”
- para 10: “America is fighting for its life in terms of its manufacturing industry….Without increased productivity and improved quality, there will be no manufacturing industry to speak of in the US by the turn of the century.
Gertler, Gayle. “Apple Chief: Reprogram Schools for Computer Age.” Providence Journal, 7 March 1984, p. A-01. (Atkins)
- para 1: “John Sculley, president of Apple Computer Inc., challenged U.S. schools yesterday to produce an ‘educational Marshall Plan’ to radically restructure elementary and high school curriculums.
- para 11: “…low-skill jobs will disappear, relocated to countries where labor costs are lower. For example, he said, Apple makes chips in Singapore and Korea.”
- para 15: “Can an economy based on industries that demand highly skilled employees survive with a labor force trained to work on assembly lines?”
- para 19: “We must train our students. . . . If we don’t, we’re going to have a work force that’s as unemployable as the auto workers in New Jersey.”
Salisbury, David F. “America’s Coming Renaissance.” Christian Science Monitor. 4 June 1984, p. 27. (Atkins)
- para 1: “The shadows of double-digit inflation and rising interest rates still stalk the land.”
- para: 3: [William F. Miller] “believes [in] a fundamental shift in basic American values….The basic tools of transformation will be high-technology. And its institutional midwife will be the venture-capital community.”
- para 16: “Information technologies have been the major agent of economic change for some time and will continue to be so for the next 20 or 30 years. Automation is on the verge of dramatically increasing the productivity of office workers.”
- para 24: “Education, particularly technical education, is crucial to the economic future of the United States….retraining the 15 percent of the work force whose present jobs will disappear by 1990.”
Kraft, Randy. “Partners in Progress and Pain–The Factory of the Future will be a Hi-Tech Showcase and Social Challenge.” The Morning Call, 18 March 1986, p. D01. (Atkins)
- para 1: “Someone who lacks the intelligence, motivation or cash to go to college or technical school no longer can count on getting a decent-paying life-time job in a local factory.”
- para 4: “They believe many more jobs will be lost if the country does not integrate computers, industrial robots and other high-tech equipment into its manufacturing plants.”
- para 5: “They argue that manufacturing has strategic national importance, that our standard of living and even our survival as a world power may depend on it.”
- para 13: “But the number of employees needed for companies that will produce automation for industry is expected to be relatively small.”
- para 26: “Because there won’t be as many workers and computers will be making more routine decisions, fewer human managers will be needed in a plant.”
- para 27: “If factory employees are going to need technical skills, what will happen to non-technical people? ‘It leaves them out in the cold, quite frankly,’ said Dr. John Ochs, associate professor of mechanic engineering at Lehigh. ‘They will have to become technical literate or a burden to the rest of society.'”
- para 28: “Dr. Steven Goldman, a history and philosophy professor who is director of Lehigh’s science, technology and society program, predicts: ‘There will be an increase in the number of people who are essentially unemployable in our society….It will make current welfare problems seem mild. It translates into social unrest that will threaten our prosperity in the 21st Century.'”
- The article cites him twice more, and he doesn’t paint a rosy picture.
- para 32: “But Goldman is doubtful. ‘It looks as though there will always be some country whose workers are so poor that they will work for a wage much lower than workers in a country that already is industrialized.'”
- para 33: “[Goldman] said the time when hard work alone guarantees economic security and upward mobility may be rapidly coming to an end. He anticipates widening gaps between the lower, middle and upper classes.”
- para 34: “Nagel doesn’t deny that people now holding manufacturing jobs will be put out of work by automation.”
- “He agrees sociological solutions will have to be found if the time comes when jobs are lost faster than new jobs become available.”
- What could those “sociological solutions” be?
- para 35: “Several Lehigh profs said people also have a responsibility to educate themselves to prepare for a more technical world.”
- para 47: “Computer integrated manufacturing [CIM] may be the salvation for many American companies, but not all of them will be able to afford it.”
- para 57: “The ultimate goal is ‘a totally automated unmanned factory’ – a concept that Odrey said ‘borders on science fiction.’ Both he and Nagel said such plants won’t be built for a long time, after many more technological advances are made.”
Contemporary Jobs Outlook
A couple days ago, the World Economic Forum (WEF) released a report that 14 million jobs would be gone by 2027. The article and first few paragraphs are worth looking at.
Horowitz, Julia. “14 Million Jobs Worldwide will Vanish in the Next 5 Years, New Economic Report Finds.” CNN.com. 30 April 2023.