Gotta give credit to my tweep!
— Heather Long (@byHeatherLong) August 6, 2017
And the article:
The workers of the first shift had just finished their morning cigarettes and settled into place when one last car pulled into the factory parking lot, driving past an American flag and a “now hiring” sign. Out came two men, who opened up the trunk, and then out came four cardboard boxes labeled “fragile.”
“We’ve got the robots,” one of the men said.
They watched as a forklift hoisted the boxes into the air and followed the forklift into a building where a row of old mechanical presses shook the concrete floor. The forklift honked and carried the boxes past workers in steel-toed boots and earplugs. It rounded a bend and arrived at the other corner of the building, at the end of an assembly line.
The line was intended for 12 workers, but two were no-shows. One had just been jailed for drug possession and violating probation. Three other spots were empty because the company hadn’t found anybody to do the work. That left six people on the line jumping from spot to spot, snapping parts into place and building metal containers by hand, too busy to look up as the forklift now came to a stop beside them.
In factory after American factory, the surrender of the industrial age to the age of automation continues at a record pace. The transformation is decades along, its primary reasons well-established: a search for cost-cutting and efficiency.
But as one factory in Wisconsin is showing, the forces driving automation can evolve — for reasons having to do with the condition of the American workforce. The robots were coming in not to replace humans, and not just as a way to modernize, but also because reliable humans had become so hard to find. It was part of a labor shortage spreading across America, one that economists said is stemming from so many things at once. A low unemployment rate. The retirement of baby boomers. A younger generation that doesn’t want factory jobs. And, more and more, a workforce in declining health: because of alcohol, because of despair and depression, because of a spike in the use of opioids and other drugs.
There’s a lot more at the link; Mr Harlan’s article runs about 3,900 words. But think about what was noted, that American workers are becoming a problem because:
- The younger generation doesn’t want factory jobs; and
- Too many potential workers would rather take drugs.
When President Trump campaigned on restoring manufacturing jobs to American workers, he assumed that American workers would actually take the manufacturing jobs he hoped to help get created.2 Mr Harlan’s story tells us that, at least in this factory in Wisconsin, American workers don’t seem too terribly interested in the jobs that already exist.
Further down in the article:
Inside the factory, there have been no major issues with quality control, plant managers say, only with filling its job openings. In the front office, the general manager had nudged up wages for second- and third-shift workers, and was wondering if he’d have to do it again in the next few months. Over in human resources, an administrator was saying that finding people was like trying to “climb Everest” — even after the company had loosened policies on hiring people with criminal records. Even the new hires who were coaxed through the door often didn’t last long, with the warning signs beginning when they filed in for orientation in a second-floor office that overlooked the factory floor.
“How’s everybody doing?” said Matt Bader, as four just-hired workers walked in on a day when Robot 1 was being installed. “All good?”
“Maybe,” one person said.
Bader, who worked for a staffing agency that helped Tenere fill some of its positions, scanned the room. There was somebody in torn jeans. Somebody who drove a school bus and needed summer work only. Somebody without a car who had hitched a ride.
Bader told them that once they started at Tenere they had to follow a few important rules, including one saying they couldn’t drink alcohol or use illegal substances at work. “Apparently, we need to tell people that,” Bader said, not mentioning that just a few days before he had driven two employees to a medical center for drug tests after managers suspected they’d shown up high.
One worker stifled a yawn. Another asked about getting personal calls during the shift. Another raised his hand.
“Yes?” Bader asked.
“Do you have any coffee?” the worker said.
“I don’t,” Bader said.
After an hour the workers were heading back to their cars, one saying that everything “sounds okay,” another saying the “pay sucks.” Bader guessed that two of the four “wouldn’t last a week,” because often, he said, he knew within minutes who would last. People who said they couldn’t work Saturdays. People who couldn’t work early mornings. This was the mystery for him: So many people showing up, saying they were worried about rent or bills or supporting children, and yet they couldn’t hold down a job that could help them.
“I am so sick of hearing that,” Bader said. “And then they wonder why things are getting automated.”
Why, I have to ask, can people who are “worried about rent or bills or supporting children” even think about not trying hard to keep a job for which they’ve already been hired, just because it might involve bad hours or weekend work?
And the answer is simple: welfare! In our compassion for the poor, we have made it possible to survive — though not in very nice conditions — without working for a living.
St Paul wrote, in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”
How simple is that? St Paul certainly exempted those who could not work, for whatever reasons, but those who could were expected to do so. Today? We give them
food stamps Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and tend to wink at work requirements. We provide rental assistance and Section 8 housing and a whole plethora of welfare benefits, because we are so good-hearted and noble that we just don’t want people to suffer.
Except, of course, those people who do work for a living, and who see part of the fruits of their labor seized to take care of those who will not work. President Trump will never be able to achieve what he wants as long as people can survive while willfully indolent.