Aug 20, 2012
It’s nice to be able to come together here today. For a few hours, we can eat, socialize, play cards, dance, enjoy ourselves. But when we leave here we are all going back to situations, neighborhoods, lives that have become increasingly desperate.
We will drive through neighborhoods where real unemployment is at the highest levels since the Great Depression, where young people have no hope for a job.
The high unemployment affects those of us with a job, who are often supporting friends, relatives, children or grandchildren who can’t get a job. And we are doing it with less money.
The bosses use the high unemployment as a threat against the people with jobs to hold down and reduce our wages.
Nine years ago, Ford workers like myself used to make a decent wage of $28/hour. Today we are still making $28/hour, but that $28 is worth about $15 or $16 as prices continually go up.
Worse yet is what they are doing to new workers.
I’ll give you just one example that some people here are very familiar with. There is an auto parts plant in Saline, built by Ford. The workers there all used to get a Ford paycheck of $28 an hour. Then Ford turned that plant into a Visteon plant, still building Ford auto parts, but with reduced wages for new hires as second tier workers, getting $14 to $18 per hour. Then the Visteon plant became an ACH plant, still making the same Ford parts, but new hires now are at a fourth-tier, starting at $11 an hour. But $11 an hour is not cheap enough for these greedy bosses. Because that Saline plant now is using workers from a temp agency, paying them fifth-tier wages of $9 an hour. Some McDonalds pay more.
The F-150 truck, which these workers help build, rolls off the assembly line every 53 seconds with a profit of $10,000 to $15,000 per truck. The beneficiaries of this cheap labor, Alan Mulally, Bill Ford and their friends, who profit from our labor, never built a truck in their lives. They make more money in one day than these lower tier workers will make in a whole year.
And what do we face when we go home from work? The cities we live in are becoming more and more unlivable. The street lights are off; the garbage is not picked up; the parks are closed; dilapidated, vacant homes are not torn down. Why? The city leaders of Detroit say they don’t have any money so they cut services AND cut wages and benefits for city workers.
But residents of Detroit pay a relatively high city income tax and the property tax rate is among the highest in the country, so where is the money going? Much of the money is going to the banks, paying off interest on bonds. These bonds were used to finance all the tax breaks given to businesses in Detroit.
What about the schools? They take money away from the public schools, cut teachers’ pay and benefits, have overcrowded classrooms without enough books or computers, or even toilet paper. Then they use all these cuts to say students aren’t learning, in order to justify turning public schools over to private companies, whose only interest is making a profit, not educating.
And if you are a worker and want to send your children to college, the only way you can do it is to put your kids in debt for the rest of their lives through student loans.
What about housing? Many people without much money desperately need an affordable place to live. A few weeks ago, the government had a sale of homes at affordable prices. They were going to sell hundreds of houses whose owners had been unable to pay their taxes. The houses were going to be sold at reasonable prices, if people paid off the delinquent taxes. But before the auction started, the government sold ALL the houses to ONE rich investor, who plans to turn around and sell these same houses for a much higher price. It’s a price many people won’t be able to afford. Is this insane or what?
How can this be happening? How can people be losing so much? How can people be living so impoverished? Isn’t this the richest country in the world? Yes it still is the richest country in the world. The problem is that every day more and more of the money is taken away from ordinary people, going into the hands of a few incredibly ridiculously wealthy people.
All this is not happening by accident. It’s the result of a system that puts profits ahead of people’s lives. It’s the result of decisions made by bankers and corporate bosses to enrich themselves at our expense. It’s the result of laws and regulations made by politicians to take money from the poor and give it to the rich. These politicians are from both parties, asking for our votes, but serving the rich and only the rich.
They want us to just lie down and accept that our lives and futures are being destroyed. I don’t think so!