Detroit may have been the heart of America’s car industry, but a short drive away is where the cars of the future may just take shape. Jack Stewart pays this stunt city a visit.
Some 40 miles (65 kilometres) from Motor City, the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor is building a fake town centre, complete with roads, buildings, roundabouts, busses, and even robotic pedestrians. This stunt city is designed to give the connected, “talking” cars of the future a place to test their skills.
James Robertson’s story is emblematic of a new reality in the manufacturing business: Factory jobs no longer represent a guaranteed ladder to economic vitality.
Call it the Robertson economy.
The 56-year-old Detroiter’s story of walking 21 miles each day to an injection-molding job — first told Feb. 1 in the Free Press — captivated, inspired and horrified readers. The public spontaneously raised more than $350,000 for Robertson’s cause — all while raining down contempt through social media on his employer, Schain Mold & Engineering in Rochester Hills, for paying him just $10.55 per hour.
The fact is, experts say and statistics show that low-wage manufacturing jobs are part of a new normal in the labor markets of the U.S. and metro Detroit following decades of globalization and the Great Recession.
Many companies have even stopped hiring full time and are relying more on temporary workers who do not necessarily receive benefits.
“We may not like factory work at $10 per hour when we’re used to them paying $28, but that’s the market wage,” said Lou Glazer, president of the nonpartisan Ann Arbor-based think tank Michigan Future.
Following the explosion of publicity and social media criticism and threats directed at Schain, company managers were reluctant to talk to the Free Press about their business.
Robertson’s extreme commute is shocking and reflects a fundamentally broken mass-transit system. But his job? His job is the new normal in manufacturing. Globalization forces producers into a desperate, penny-for-penny competition for customers.
In the Robertson economy, either the wages stay low, or the work goes away, somewhere overseas or South of the border. Manufacturing wages have stagnated at lower levels because it’s easy for companies to outsource work to low-cost manufacturers around the globe.
Union proponents see Robertson’s compensation as symbolic of a structural problem plaguing America that public policymakers must address.
Cindy Estrada, a vice president of the UAW, decried the impact of low-wage manufacturing jobs on families.
Estrada, who leads contract bargaining with General Motors and multibillion-dollar automotive suppliers, said that, regrettably, a $10.55-per-hour wage is not unusual for workers in the U.S. auto parts industry. Companies such as Lear and Faurecia pay workers less than $15 per hour in some factories, she said.
“The wage is not an anomaly,” Estrada said. “There is a Wal-Marting of the manufacturing sector that people need to learn about.”
But the consternation over low manufacturing wages disguises what has become an emerging trade-off: Low wages breed more jobs.
The Republican 2016 primary is in full swing. Potential candidates are traveling the country pitching their conservative ideas like cutting taxes for the wealthy, blocking free community college for those who work for it, taking away affordable health care for millions of Americans, and blocking comprehensive immigration reform.
These ideas coming from Republicans are not new and not surprising. But a particular candidate’s visit today to a particular city is surprising.
Today, the Detroit Economic Club is set to welcome Jeb Bush to speak to its members — a visit that is shadowed by Bush’s history with our automotive industry.
Just a couple years ago Jeb Bush was asked by Charlie Rose if he supported the President’s decision to rescue General Motors. Without hesitation, he responded: “I don’t. I don’t.”
So Jeb Bush doesn’t support the over one million jobs saved by the auto rescue? Jobs in Detroit and across Michigan and throughout the country.
Bush’s position echoes that of the last GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, who was willing to “let Detroit go bankrupt.”
Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush are one in the same on many issues, but their positions on the president’s bold decision to rescue the auto industry, and save our local economy are unforgivable.
And since the rescue, the auto industry has become a key component in our economy’s rebound. Last year alone light-vehicle sales totaled 16.5 million, the highest number since 2006.
But the President’s decision to rescue the auto industry wasn’t just about helping an American industry at a time when it needed it the most, or about having faith in the American worker whose hard work and ingenuity could rebound after a crisis. It was about the millions of middle class and working families who would be without a paycheck, without a way to pay rent, or a way to feed the kids.
But that’s just it. Republicans like Jeb Bush put their own political priorities ahead of middle class and working families, like those in Detroit and across the Midwest who directly benefitted from the rescue.
Republicans like Jeb Bush and those vying to be their party’s 2016 nominee, have decided who they’re going to fight for, and it’s not the middle class. It’s the wealthy, it’s the entitled, and it’s the richest slice of Americans who bankroll their campaigns.
It’s clear who the Democrats are fighting for. Just this week, President Obama outlined his budget to strengthen the middle class and help America’s hard-working families get ahead. President Obama and Democrats understand that investing in and supporting the middle class will create a sustainable national economy that is built to last.
That’s the difference. Democrats will continue to stand with and fight for middle class families, while Republicans will choose to fight for special interests, and stand up against decisions that support middle class families, like rescuing the American auto industry.
Speaking as one of the longterm unemployed Americans who despaired of ever rejoining the work force, the auto industry bailout has been a godsend.
The early organizational work for the planned new bridge between Detroit and Windsor appears to be speeding up.
In January, the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, a nonprofit Canadian entity that is leading the bridge project, sought applicants to fill a range of staffing jobs in administration, communications, information technology, human resources, policy analysis, accounting and finance, engineering, operations and legal.
Michael Cautillo, president and CEO of the bridge authority, said more job postings would be published as operational needs are identified.
A Windsor recruitment firm has been retained to assist with the hiring process. Candidates interested in working with the project should apply online at thejobshoppe.com.
And just this past week, the bridge authority announced it had awarded a significant engineering contract worth $17 million to Parsons to serve as the general engineering consultant for the project, which is known by two names — the Detroit River International Crossing (the Canadian title) and the New International Trade Crossing (the title that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder prefers).
Much remains to be done, including land acquisition in Detroit’s Delray neighborhood and — perhaps the thorniest issue — resolving who will pay to build the U.S. Customs and Border Protection plaza on the Detroit end of the bridge. The U.S. government, which will operate the plaza, has so far balked at paying for it, a cost that could total somewhere in the $250-$300 million range depending on the scope.
U.S. President Barack Obama hailed the resurgence of the U.S. auto industry as well as Detroit’s emergence from bankruptcy today at Ford’s assembly plant in Wayne, where he was applauded by hundreds of Ford workers and elected officials.
“Today I wanted to come here to Michigan because this state proves that no matter how tough times get, Americans are tougher,” Obama said as part of a series of speeches leading up to the State of the Union speech on Jan. 20.
Obama said the federal government could have provided the auto industry money without any strings attached or could have done nothing. It instead chose to lend money in a program designed to encourage restructuring.
“Now this is the heartbeat of American manufacturing. Right here. And it was flat-lining,” Obama said of the industry in 2009 when the federal government decided to provide emergency loans to help General Motors and Chrysler emerge from bankruptcy.
“It was not popular. Even in Michigan it wasn’t popular,” Obama said. “But that bet has paid off…because the American auto industry is back.”
U.S. automakers sold 16.5 million cars and trucks in 2014, the most since 2006. GM, Ford and Chrysler are all now earning profits - a steep contrast to the losses that forced all three companies to go to Washington to ask for loans in 2008.
Portions of Obama’s speech sounded much like many of his campaign speeches in 2012, when Obama was running for a second term.
Now, Obama is trying to gain momentum for the remainder of his second term where he will be challenged by a Republican controlled Congress.
“I’ve only got two years left in office — I didn’t want to wait for the State of the Union to talk about all the things that make this country great,” he said.
Obama said he also wanted to highlight the success of the automotive rescue program because it has come to an end. Last month, the U.S. Treasury sold its last remaining shares that it held in Ally Financial, which previously was GM’s auto lending arm.
In total, taxpayers lost $9.26 billion on the U.S. government’s automotive industry rescue program, according to a final tally released by U.S. Treasury on Monday.
The government recovered $70.42 billion of the $79.68 billion it gave to General Motors, Chrysler, Ally Financial Inc., Chrysler Financial and automotive suppliers through the federal Auto Industry Financing Program. The program was part of the larger Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.
However, the automotive rescue program was never designed to earn a profit for the government. Instead, it was designed to prevent the nation from sinking into a depression.
“The bankruptcy of either GM or Chrysler or both would have been extremely devastating, particularly in this region of the country,” said Kristin Dziczek, director of the labor and industry group for the Center for Automotive Research. “Not acting would’ve cost the federal government much more than $9.3 billion in terms of lost tax revenues and increased social safety net costs.”
While Ford was the only one of Detroit’s three automakers not to receive government assistance as part of the 2009 rescue effort, Ford executives have frequently said the Dearborn automaker and its own supplier base would have been decimated if GM and Chrysler had gone under.
“Bill (Ford) and others are the first to admit that you could have a cascading effect …Ford could have gone under too,” Obama said. “Plants would have shuttered, and we would have lost this iconic industry.”
More at Freep (That’s Detroit Free Press, not the fever swamp)
DETROIT (WWJ) - There’s a major power outage affecting multiple buildings downtown, including the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, public schools, the City-County building and Joe Louis Arena.
According to sources, the downtown electrical grid failed at around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Streets lights are out, as well as power to some buildings on the campus Wayne State University.
With several schools without power, officials with the Detroit Public Schools said students would be released at their half-day dismissal time throughout the entire district. Parents of kids who don’t take the bus were asked to pick up their children.
The Detroit Free Press is reporting that Detroit firehouses are also without power.
“It’s a pretty wild scene,” reported WWJ’s Vickie Thomas. “We heard sirens and two fire rigs pulled up here to the City-County building, and I asked the firefighters — they jumped out with all sorts of tools and whatnot —if they were trying to rescue people from the elevators; and that’s exactly what they are doing.”
WWJ’s Marie Osborne, who had been covering a case in Detroit’s Third Circuit Court, evacuated the building along with hundreds of others, walking down eight flights of stairs.
“This is an 11-story building, so there were people up on the upper floors. I also heard through one of the deputy’s intercom systems that there were people on the upper floors that were in wheelchairs and had canes and walkers — so you can imagine this evacuation took quite awhile.”
The Detroit People Mover temporarily suspended service due to the outage, and the Detroit Historical Museum and Detroit Institute of Arts will be closed for the rest of the day.
At WSU, University Police Chief Tony Holt said his officers are out in force.
“It’s not so much in terms of safety…In terms of the lighting, the heating and so forth — we have made sure that no one’s stuck in elevators,” Holt said. “We have officers really visible on campus.” Some WSU buildings to have power, he said.
Downtown Detroit to New Center, where Wayne State campus is located, is a huge area.
According to Detroit Free Press, all fire stations are down.
Maybe this is a heist of the MGM Grand, Motor City and Greektown casinos?
It’s wet out here, and the water is deep.
Sharks the size of Cadillacs, eating entire SUVs!
The Great Detroit Flood
In downtown Detroit, at the headquarters of the online-mortgage company Quicken Loans, there stands another downtown Detroit in miniature. The diorama, made of laser-cut acrylic and stretching out over 19 feet in length, is a riot of color and light: Every structure belonging to Quicken’s billionaire owner, Dan Gilbert, is topped in orange and illuminated from within, and Gilbert currently owns 60 of them, a lordly nine million square feet of real estate in all. He began picking up skyscrapers just three and a half years ago, one after another, paying as little as $8 a square foot. He bought five buildings surrounding Capitol Park, the seat of government when Michigan became a state in 1837. He snapped up the site of the old Hudson’s department store, where 12,000 employees catered to 100,000 customers daily in the 1950s. Many of Gilbert’s purchases are 20th-century architectural treasures, built when Detroit served as a hub of world industry. He bought a Daniel Burnham, a few Albert Kahns, a Minoru Yamasaki masterwork with a soaring glass atrium. “They’re like old-school sports cars,” said Dan Mullen, one of the executives who took over Quicken’s newly formed real estate arm. “These were buildings with so much character, so much history. They don’t exist anywhere else. And it was like, ‘Buy this parking garage, and we’ll throw in a skyscraper with it.’ “
One of Gilbert’s new downtown properties is an iconic Kahn creation from 1959 called Chase Tower, previously the National Bank of Detroit Building, which spans a full city block. Now nicknamed the Qube, the building houses hundreds of Quicken loan officers who sit or stand at small desks, working their phones. Employees are encouraged to write on the walls, which also display the latest tallied results in competitions between internal sales teams. Stenciled on the walls as well are the Quicken credos, 19 bits of pithy wisdom the company calls its “Isms.” (“The inches we need are everywhere around us.” “Numbers and money follow; they do not lead.”) Above the workers hover decorative, spacecraft-like orbs, in peach and pink and aquamarine, matching the colors of the cabinetry and carpeting. The overall atmosphere resembles “The Wolf of Wall Street” as art-directed by Dr. Seuss. When a loan officer closes a deal, the resulting mortgage contract is printed out in the nearby basement of the old Federal Reserve, another Gilbert holding. In rooms where armored cars once deposited bags of money, rows of printers run hot, spitting out tens of thousands of contracts a month, a total of $80 billion in residential mortgages last year.
I have received a number of calls from recruiters for job openings at Quicken Loans. A co-worker actually did quit to go work for them.
The whole idea of an elite few buying up and owning the entire city is kind of, well, nauseating.
Days after a coalition of welfare rights organizations appealed to the United Nations for relief with Detroit water shutoffs, U.S. Rep. John Conyers today condemned the practice by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.
Conyers said he plans to develop a range of solutions to address the crisis, including requesting federal emergency relief.
“Detroit’s water crisis did not happen in a vacuum,” Conyers said in a statement this evening. “Over the past decade, Detroiters have seen their water rates increase by 119%. Over this same period, forces beyond city residents’ control — including a global financial crisis that left one in five local residences in foreclosure and sent local unemployment rates skyrocketing — severely undercut Detroiters’ ability to pay.”
Conyers called the shutoffs inhumane and “economically short-sighted.” He said he plans to introduce legislation to protect access to water during the city’s bankruptcy proceedings and he will be working with members of Congress, state and federal officials in the coming days.
The department announced in March that it was resuming efforts to shut off water service to more than 150,000 delinquent customers in order to collect nearly $118 million in outstanding bills. The department said it would target customers whose bills are more than two months late and would shut off about 3,000 customers a week.
Department officials repeated their defense of the practice today, saying many customers avoided shutoffs by paying their bills, and the department is working to limit shutoffs.
A coalition of welfare rights organizations — including the Detroit People’s Water Board — appealed to the United Nations to have service restored to customers and to prevent more shutoffs.
A right-wing state and corporate push to cut off water is economic shock therapy at its most ruthless and racist, but resistance is growing
It was six in the morning when city contractors showed up unannounced at Charity Hicks’ house.
Since spring, up to 3000 Detroit households per week have been getting their water shut-off – for owing as little as $150 or two months in bills. Now it was the turn of Charity’s block – and the contractor wouldn’t stand to wait an hour for her pregnant neighbour to fill up some jugs.
“Where’s your water termination notice?” Charity demanded, after staggering to the contractor’s truck. A widely-respected African-American community leader, she has been at the forefront of campaigns to ensure Detroiters’ right to public, accessible water.
The contractor’s answer was to drive away, knocking Charity over and injuring her leg. Two white policemen soon arrived – not to take her report, but to arrest her. Mocking Charity for questioning the water shut-offs, they brought her to jail, where she spent two days before being released without charge.
Welcome to Detroit’s water war – in which upward of 150,000 customers, late on bills that have increased 119 percent in the last decade, are now threatened with shut-offs. Local activists estimate this could impact nearly half of Detroit’s mostly poor and black population – between 200,000 and 300,000 people.
As the Michigan Citizen reported, residents with delinquent water bills are losing their water while prominent Detroit corporations with much larger delinquent water bills are being left alone. The Palmer Park Golf Club owes $200,000. Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings, owes DWSD $80,000. Ford Field owes $55,000. Kevyn Orr is arguing that the shutoffs are necessary to pay for the DWSD infrastructure - yet when Detroit raised $1 billion in bonds to pay for new infrastructure, $537 million of it went to banks like JPMorgan Chase, UBS and Morgan Stanley to pay off interest instead.
- See more at: occupy.com
Detroit is not “Run By Liberals” as the wingnut meme goes, it is being run by dictatorial fiat of Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, who answers only to Republican Gov. Snyder.
Here are some “helpful” suggestions from wingnuts:
Brian H. • 17 hours ago
How about all those Democrat leaders you elected?? Still trying to find a way to blame your parched throats on George W?? Yes, you have a basic right to water, but how do you expect free water, running to your homes, through pipes that someone else paid for and to be installed?? You live next to a BIG freaking lake… Guess what? That’s water- go grab a bucket and work for what you need.
Keninmo ellid • 8 days ago
LOL — Pay your bills, and you get water.
What else do you call a “basic human right”? Food, housing, cars, cell phones, comfy shoes, air conditioning?
Progressives — spouting mush since 1900.
Keninmo sameeker • 12 hours ago
Why? Why should a provider of goods or services take a loss just because the person consuming those goods or services is a deadbeat, and goes looking for a handout?
Let’s put it in a context an Occupy Spacer can understand.
Occupy Space Hipster living in his mom’s basement bums money off mom every month and promises to “pay her back”. Hipster gets $800 in the hole to mom. Dad finds out, and says “Hipster, pay up the money or get the h@ll out of my basement.”. Hipster hits up his deadbeat hipster friend, who we’ll call Hipster 2, to borrow $600 off his mom, who we’ll call mom2. Hipster 2 gets $600 from mom2, and gives it to Hipster, who gives it to his mom. Dad confronts Hipster and says “You paid $600, not $800. Where’s the other $200?” Hipster says “Hey, dude, it got paid by charitable contributions. You should give me a reduced rate.” Dad kicks Hipster in the azz and puts him to the curb.
And GOOD LORD, you idjit — Detroit Water and Sewer Department is….ready for it? Owned, operated and run by….the CITY OF DETROIT! AS A NON-PROFIT!
Now do you see why your post has no merit? Well, given your post in the first place, probably not….
There are MOAR HORRIBLE COMMENTS at the linked articles.
First you will need 183,000 people. Then add 111 years’ experience. And finally reduce to 2 minutes 44 seconds. Now repeat. Welcome to 24 hours in the life of Planet Ford.