The Jobs Dilemma Facing President Trump

On Friday, the 45th U. S. President was sworn in.  Over and over in his campaign speeches across America, Donald Trump promised to bring back jobs.  He won by a narrow margin from three primary states in the rust belt and those that voted for him expect the  new president to deliver.  These areas saw many jobs leave and it was devastating to people living in these communities.  Not only do they want jobs but they  want good-paying jobs.  Is that possible?

The NPR show, Marketplace, using Erie, PA, as an example of a rust belt town, asked community experts in job planning  what they thought.  Just as others have said, one member of the community said technology has reduced the number of jobs needed in manufacturing.  He also said it’s better to offer training assistance so people can learn more about technology.  Another community member, who works in helping people find jobs or learn new skills, said they’re not always sure whether to train older workers near retirement in new skills or help them find a job in a factory.

President Trump has said trade deals have been bad for American workers.  What about them?  Have they been bad for workers?  The problem with trade deals is they can hurt consumers which eventually will hurt workers according to The Brookings Institute.  If tariffs, which President Trump has suggested, are placed on imports than those additional costs associated with the tariffs can be passed on to the consumer.  American products, they say, are not necessarily as competitive as those manufactured in other countries.  If products are made in the U. S., it still can hurt consumers because manufacturers here can raise their prices which could cause less product to be sold and lay off workers.

But  according to the Economic Policy Institute, the lack of tariffs on foreign countries  hurts American workers because some countries slash currency or don’t stick to trade policies which end up costing jobs.  Trade deficits are created when the U. S. isn’t exporting as much as it is importing and that has been a problem impacting American manufacturing.  EPI cites the trade agreement with Korea.  The U.S. has seen an increase in imports from Korea since 2012 of almost 10% but the exports to Korea has reduced almost 8%.  That has resulted in about a 60% trade deficit or more than 65,000 jobs.

There’s also another way to look at this jobs dilemma.  An article in The Atlantic,  describes an era some Americans  want to return to.  It was a time when jobs were plentiful for men.  World War II was over and so was the Korean War.  Families were growing.  Purchasing a home or buying other things didn’t cost much.   Jobs for men, the article stated, was over 80% employment. People felt good.  They were comfortable and happy.

It also was a peak time for unions.  Ike was president and under the 1956 Republican platform it encouraged union activism.  During that time, one out of three households was a union household.  Today, unions are not as prevalent in households.  Is there a correlation here?  Wages have been lower, jobs have been lost.  People are unhappy.   As we previously have blogged, when wages in unionized organizations increase, it impacts wages of non-unionized organizations.

But it was it a good time for everybody?  The 1950s was a time of pre-civil rights.  Jim Crow laws were alive and well.  Some people hid in the shadows fearful of being found out.  Women were sometimes chastised for working outside the home and not being home with children.  In the 1950s, there were times it seemed like we lived in a plastic world instead recognizing the reality of life.  Some of the experts say people are afraid today of all the changes from that plastic 1950s world and that’s why they crave so to go back.  President Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” relates some to that desire to go back.

How will President Trump work on jobs and wages with unions? Although we read and hear wages are increasing, what will the Trump presidency do for wages?  Will they increase as President Trump has promised, or will they stagnate?

Recently, President Elect Trump met with Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO.  Apparently, Trump staffers wanted the two to meet since many of Trump supporters were union members.  While Trumka  supported Hillary Clinton during the campaign, he tweeted they had a good meeting which lasted approximately an hour and a half.  He also posted a picture of their meeting.

President Trump spoke about the shuttered factories and layoffs and there are those out there who want those good-paying manufacturing jobs to come back.  That may happen but that doesn’t mean, nor has it ever meant,  they are the only jobs that provide good incomes!  There are others and they are found all over including the rust belt states that elected President Trump!

In previous blogs, we have identified apprenticeship jobs.  These jobs pay as well if not better than manufacturing.  Not only do they pay well but they provide free education.  An apprentice will work and go to school at the same time.  It’s not an easy program but if a worker is looking for something more than $10 an hour jobs, this may be it.

These jobs also provide workers with continuous training so they stay updated on their skills so they don’t have to worry about not having enough skill to keep their job.  Even though skilled trades jobs have been around forever, they’re in demand now! Again, as President Trump has said, infrastructure needs to be improved and this may be a good way to use those skilled trade jobs.

CNN over a year ago reported on the shortage of skilled trade jobs.  They reported how these jobs can help all kinds of workers whether they be the older worker who lost their job through a layoff, or the veteran coming back from a tour of duty, or the single mother trying to support her family.

Apprenticeship jobs are definitely a way to have that comfortable, secure way of life Americans dream about.    Here’s a link of the benefits for the central Ohio electrical apprenticeship.  Many apprenticeship programs may be similar to it.  It’s just a matter of applying for them and another link to help is the Department of Labor.

About CALMC Blog

Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to involving employers and employees to preserve jobs, resolve workplace issues, and promote labor-management cooperation. Visit our website at
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