Thursday, January 28, 2010

Mollie's Job--#7 finished

This was a very good book about a real life company and some of the people that worked at the company. The author did a history of the company--Universal Manufacturing and its founder and about its first plant in Patterson, New Jersey and how it eventually moved to Mississippi and Arkansas. Then in the 1980s after being part of the corporate raiders and junk bond money and as part of large corporations it eventually moved all of its manufacturing to Mexico. It is really a sad look at manufacturing in America and leaves the reader with many questions as to how it got to this point.

There are several things I took away from this book, first was probably back in the 1800s factories in New Jersey looked to Pennsylvania for cheaper labor and set up secondary plants there. These helped in that labor in New Jersey realized the factory could move if it demanded too much pay. Funny how it was even back then.

The biggest thing I probably took away from this book is how the labor movement really failed the workers. This plant was caught up in the Jimmy Hoffa lead Teamsters fight with the AFL-CIO unions in the 1960 and 1970s. It really hits home when at the end of the book it says how little Mollie's pension is after working for the company for 30 plus years. The union really didn't help her out much in that instance. Better working conditions and hours and benefits certainly were improved by the union but it really provided little for the retirement it seems. This was also a very corrupt union and unfortunately the leaders are probably long gone while the retirees are suffering.

The info on the plants in the south that opened in the 1960s during the civil rights movement offered quite a bit of insight into life back then. It seems these plants probably did a lot more for the races coming together than they seem to get credit for.

As far as the Mexico plants, one certainly sees that the labor is being exploited there but still there are thousands of people there happy for the jobs they have. It seems almost labor will be exploited almost everywhere. What will that area of Mexico be like in 20 or so years is an interesting question--will the factories still be there or will they have moved again for another cheaper labor source?

The whole 1980s junk bonds and corporate raiders issue was a small part of the book but it really showed the difference of how the company was handled compared to the more hands off approach for the earlier corporate structures after the founder sold the company.

This book provides a lot of very good information and really makes one think. It doesn't propose answers because I am not sure anyone really has them for what happens once the plant leaves an area. It is like a big hole is left that cannot be filled. I really enjoyed the book but there is really no happy ending for this one.

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