Steve Blank Janesville – A story about the rest of America


I just read the book – Janesville – This again reminded me of life outside the bubble.

Janesville tells the story of the fired workers at a General Motors factory that will never reopen. It's the story of a Midwestern town and the type of people I know and work with.

When I came out of the air force after Vietnam, I lived in Michigan and I installed process control systems in assembly plants. automobiles and steel mills located in the heart of the Midwest industrial center. I attended the summit of the American manufacturing industry in the 1970s, when we actually made things – before exporting factories and jobs abroad. I hung out with the guys who were working there, went bowling and shooting with them, complaining about the same things, wives, girlfriends, jobs, union and bosses, and shared the same concerns. Janesville is their story.

On the surface, the book is an incredibly well-written narrative over a five-year period, from 2008 to 2013, that connects licensed auto workers, reconversion of job centers, union organizers, community leaders, business leaders and politicians. Five stars for the report.

But what makes the book so rich is that the story is deeper than the people it follows. By reading it more closely, it breaks the shared illusions about our economic system, which needs our faith to survive.

FirstAmerica was built on workers who believed that their hard work would give their children the opportunity to do better. The hard truth is that part of Janesville's story is about a generation of blue-collar workers who grew up thinking that a job in a factory was not just an entry into the economy, but rather a multigenerational right. They believed that the posters saying "Our employees are our greatest asset" and assumed that it meant forever – instead of reading the fine print that said: "Until we can reduce our labor costs -d "work by transferring your jobs overseas."

To be clear, that does not mean they have not worked hard or deserved what has happened to them. Far from there. This means, however, that even though they had more and more evidence that it could not last, they took for granted that a job in a well-paid factory was a cornucopia of endless economic abundance. The sad reality is that the 50 years of factory work after World War II at GM and elsewhere have been a golden age of blue collar jobs – in the United States – they are gone and will not be coming back.

SecondJobs are not being restored because, as our economy continued to grow, in the name of efficiency and profitability, we shut down shipyards and factories and moved these jobs overseas. Across the country, in boardrooms, we traded jobs for short-term profits while selling those who thought they had a social contract with their company – and their country. And while we give these politicians polite names such as globalization and outsourcing, the consequences have wreaked havoc on cities like Janesville. Oh, what jobs have we transferred abroad or have we never tried to create here (think iPhones)? They helped build the blue-collar working class in China and India.

And with campaign donations evenly distributed, both sides supported this exodus and no government members stood in their way – they even encouraged it. The result has been that the bulk of these corporate profits have ended up in the pockets of the wealthiest. The contrast is quite bitter in cities like Janesville where income inequality stares you. When cities recover, new jobs are most often at a fraction of the wages offered by closed factories. The level of desperation and anger of workers that companies, politicians and the rest of the country have abandoned is high. In the United States, Janesville did not care about Hacker News, TechCrunch, etc., Hollywood gossip in Variety, or the Wall Street Journal's latest financial moves. They wanted to hear people talk to them about how to regain their lives. They voted their interests in 2016.

ThirdWhen these jobs were created in the name of maximizing profits, no one (with the exception of the unions) indicated that all secondary jobs would disappear as well. Not only the most obvious elements, such as machine tool manufacturers, direct suppliers, etc. Restaurants, cinemas, real estate agents, etc.

Fourthit was the story of one city and one factory. If we believe in predictions of autonomous vehicles and disruptions in the trucking industry, and machine learning disrupting other industries, Janesville is the harbinger of much larger economic upheavals to come.

Fifth, and a critical idea that almost missed me, as she was buried in Schedule 2 (and a real surprise to me) was that "dismissed workers who have returned to school were less likely to have a job after recycling only those who did not go to school."Sensational Talk about burying your head Skills training is one of the fundamentals of any economic recovery plan, yet the data collected by the author and his associated researchers show that it is not The people who had been retrained were worst than those who went out on their own.

SixthThis means that, despite their well-intentioned efforts, the employees who train local people and relays in "Janesville will still increase" really made the dismissed workers a disservice. The very things that they advocated were not going to help this generation of laid-off workers. I wonder if they understood that.

SeventhThis raises the question of what kind of training, if any, should be provided to dismissed workers when the plant will close in a city with a business. My conclusion from the story that followed the families is that they would have been better served by basic training in the reality of their new economic context, their financial management and their new life skills. For example, teach a few days on "Lessons learned from the experience of families from other single-industry cities" and "Mortgage mergers: how to get out of the underwater mortgage" , practical job search tips outside their community of trips to other cities and paid co – wagons for their gypsy workers traveling to remote GM factories. In addition, resilience, agility and other skills training. would have provided these workers with the proper education and tools to survive in the new economy.

An excellent book that made me sad, angry and made me think long and hard about the consequences of not having a national industrial policy. And why, by using the vine leaf to "maximize shareholder value," companies and financial institutions have set it by default.

This really looks like a return to the golden age.

It's worth reading.

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