A pithy saying often heard in the Rust Belt, reflective of…..the loss of community, dearth of culture, malaise/apathy, physical atrophy/blight, urban decay, exodus, and general collapse that accompanies job loss and its attendant economic withering. The recent economic downturn is hardly new to most of us in Flyover Country™. That doesn’t mean there still weren’t jobs worth losing:
- Herrin, Illinois (pop. 11,835): 1,000 jobs lost with the closing of the Maytag plant in 2006.
- Decatur, Illinois (pop. 81,860): 1,000 jobs lost to Caterpillar layoffs announced in 2009.
- Galesburg, Illinois (pop. 34,000): 1,600 jobs lost to the Maytag closing in 2004.
- Rockford, Illinois (pop. 157,000): over 15% unemployment; layoffs at Gates Corp., Pac-Sci Motion Control, Amerock, Hamilton/Sunstrand, Clarcor, etc.
- Belvidere, Illinois (pop. 20,820): initial layoffs at the Chrysler plant 1,000; could potentially impact 3,800.
- Rantoul, Illinois (pop. 12,400): 770 jobs lost to Collins & Aikman closing
Where to begin? Danville, Illinois (pop. 34,000) is enduring the layoff of 195 at Freight Car America, but that’s a small number in comparison with the losses of the 1980s and 90s at General Electric, General Motors, Hyster, Bohn Aluminum, Teepak, Anchor Hocking, etc. Streator, Illinois (pop. 14,190) once billed itself as “The Glass Container Capital of the World!” when Owens-Illinois had 3,500 workers; now Owens is down to 250. Kankakee (pop. 25,561) is losing 119 jobs this year at American Spring Wire. Jacksonville, Illinois (pop. 18,940) is weathering the shuttering of ACH Foods and EMI. Pontiac, Illinois (pop. 11,864) is losing 262 jobs at the Interlake facility. Mattoon, Charleston, Bloomington, Peoria, Quincy, Rock Island, Springfield, Havana, Clinton, Pinckneyville, West Frankfort, Sterling, East St. Louis, Granite City, Moline, Ottawa, Carlinville, Hillsboro, Salem, Paris, Olney, Mt. Carmel, Joliet, Aurora, Chicago and its satellite cities—you’d be hard pressed to find an Illinois city that hasn’t been negatively impacted by the loss of manufacturing jobs. Here’s a list of TAA petitions to the Illinois Department of Employment Security; for a longer list that includes petitions still under consideration, you can visit the U. S. Department of Labor TAA site here and type in “Illinois”.
NAFTA hasn’t been kind to my state. Jobs with Justice produced a paper that outlines the job erosion. Jobs lost in Illinois since September 2008 now number 268,000. But again…..we’ve been hemorrhaging jobs for three decades. Prisons are seen as one solution. The state legislature seems to think that casinos and legalized video gambling in bars will make up the difference. Welcome to Illinois.
Or Michigan. Indiana. Wisconsin. Ohio. Missouri. “Now Main Street’s whitewashed windows and vacant stores…Seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come down here no more….They’re closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks…Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back….”* That album came out in 1984. It’s worse now. The damage is cumulative. When those jobs left, they took entire communities with them. The lost wages (and benefits) from manufacturing jobs were just the immediate loss. Other jobs that depended on those plants (like say….electricians) left too. Other jobs that depended on the disposable income from those jobs (grocers, hardware stores, credit unions, etc.) left. Economically abandoned cities became commuter villages as folks hardscrabbled a living by increasing their drive time. The recent economic ‘downturn’ isn’t recent. It needs to be understood in the context of what has been happening across the world over decades. This is what it looks like in my slice of the world.
This is what my whole state looks like. Death by one thousand cuts.
*Bruce Springsteen, “My Hometown”
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