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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Assault on the Middle Class is in full force; are lower wages, less benefits the new normal

Middle-class residence in Lewiston, NYImage via Wikipedia
The America Home was a status symbol
for Middle Class America. With lower
wages and benefits to start the decade,
many will not be able to afford a home
or pay necessary bills in the future.

Hiring lower wage earners is the employment trend for 2011 and beyond, according to ‘The Political and Economic Assault on the Middle Class article in the Atlantic.

With the recent verbal assaults in the media on Federal and State public sector workers, one of the last middle remaining employment ways to enter what is called the middle-class lifestyle is being attacked.

American job seekers and workers are facing lower wages and benefits into the new decade. Continuing this trend for the future, will lead to a two tier system of the lower and upper classes; cutting workers dreams of living in the middle class America with affordable wages and benefits.

“Of the top ten occupations projected to have the largest numerical growth in the next decade, seven pay median wages under $30,000 a year, including food preparers and servers earning $16,000, and retail and home care workers who make $20,000”, according to Eve Tahmincioglu- labor and career columnist for MSNBC.com.

“Home aides and retail workers are expected to add about 1.4 million positions this decade while middle-class manufacturing jobs are projected to lose more than a million jobs”, she wrote.

These are not the employment opportunities that lead to a strong middle class. In Michigan, up to 400,000 middle class employment opportunities lost in the last five years by manufacturing industry downsizing shrunk the state population and left many in lower wage jobs.

The domino effect on small businesses of the fall of middle class America was highlighted in Ann Arbor.com on December 19th , as the historical Willow Run General Motors Powertrain plant in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan closed its’ doors for good Thursday, December 23, 2010.

In the late to mid-1970’s the plant -used to manufacturer World War II fighter planes in the 1940’s- employed up to 17,000 workers. During the U.S. automobile company restructuring process after the Federal Bailout of 2009, General Motors decided to shut the plant doors and with it, dreams of a life in middle class America in the Southeastern Michigan community.

“You could call any business around here and ask anyone - they have been affected by the plant closing,” stated Ruth Bradley owner of America Tailoring, located less than a mile from the now closed plant. “I have seen a huge difference. That’s why a lot of people are laying off employees. They can’t help it. If you want to keep your doors open, you are going to have to make cuts”, Bradley said.

Less than two weeks before the plant closed, on December 15th, Ms. Bradley was forced by new economic realities in Ypsilanti Township to call two of her employees. Within the call, she had to share the news that their services would not be required for the remainder of the week.

Three years ago, those same employees would have logged eight to nine hours every day. Business at American Tailoring has dropped off so steeply that Bradley now mostly works alone at her shop.

“They had money flowing out of their pockets and they were spending it on everything they wanted,” small business manager Ron Scheuneman said to Ann Arbor.com. “That’s not the case now.” Scheuneman is the manager at Preferred Auto Glass and Trim, less than two miles from the closed plant.  

The shops’ business dropped by 50 percent during the last three to four years, prior to the closure announcement in December 2009. Employees of the automobile repair business, have been cut to match decrease demand for services, from five employees to three.

Peter Creticos, president and executive director for the Institute for Work and the Economy, calls it the "down waging" of American jobs. Creticos cited his concern of the survival of middle class and downward effects on the economy, blunting innovation and impoverishing America’s in the future.

We're not growing the middle, so people on the bottom have nowhere to go and we're putting downward pressure on good skilled jobs for those in the middle," he said in the Atlantic. ‘The individuals holding jobs paying near-poverty wages will be able to find work, but making ends meet will be a struggle for a growing segment of the working population’, he cited.

Meanwhile, the attacks on jobs that fueled middle class America continue. Republican lawmakers in Indiana, Maine, Missouri and seven other states plan to introduce legislation that would bar private sector unions from forcing workers they represent to pay dues or fees, reducing the flow of funds into union treasuries.

In Ohio, the new Republican governor, wants to ban strikes by public school teachers. Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s newly elected governor is threatening to take away government workers’ right to form unions and bargain contracts.

“We can no longer live in a society where the public employees are the haves and taxpayers who foot the bills are the have-nots,” Mr. Walker, a Republican, said in a speech noted in the New York Times. “The bottom line is that we are going to look at every legal means we have to try to put that balance more on the side of taxpayers.”

At the expense of Middle Class America, as we knew it.

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