INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Former United Steelworkers Union President Chuck Jones isn’t shy about expressing his feelings on the state of the U.S. labor market. Jones, who rose to prominence when Carrier announced it would be outsourcing hundreds of jobs to Mexico, joined Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at Monument Circle Monday for a jobs rally.
“We got to do better. We got to do better especially for the working class people,” he said.
Jones will be joining Sanders on a cross country trip promoting the Good Jobs Nation tour. What he essentially describes as a rallying cry to hold President Trump to the promises he made during his 2016 election campaign.
“We want Donald Trump to live up to his promises and sign an executive order to keep companies from shipping our jobs overseas and then getting military contracts,” Jones said.
For Jones, the biggest issue surrounding American jobs is wages. He says jobs are out there but says too many of them are low wage, low skill positions. Jones says those jobs don’t cut it, particularly for the many American workers who have lost jobs due to outsourcing to Mexico or China or due to improvements in automation.
“Politicians are going to have to realize that in order to keep cities, towns, states in operation they’re going to have to keep good paying jobs so people can pay taxes and pay for proper schools, and roads and things that fall into those lines,” he said.
While low wages are a concern for IU Kelley School of Business professor Mohan Tatikonda, he says Indiana is actually an outlier due to manufacturing employment holding fairly strong.
According to the latest numbers from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, Indiana has a 3.1% unemployment rate, compared to the national average of 4.3%. Some of Indiana’s is attributed to increased need in the private sector and Indiana’s shrinking labor market.
During the rally, one of Sanders’ and Jones’ chief concerns was the fate of the American manufacturing workforce if automation and outsourcing trends continue. Tatikonda suggests that the American manufacturing workforce can find success despite automation and outsourcing of labor if companies and executives invest their profits into innovation and research and development, which would provide replacement work.
“What we need to do is when there is improvement, when there is automation is find good ways to use the people who are freed up. And so we need to have them working on products, and new products that they hadn’t been making before,” he said.