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Date: Sun, 20 Jul 2003 20:34:02 -0400
Subject: [WW] Record job losses for Black workers

Record job losses for Black workers

By Monica Moorehead, Workers World, 24 July 2003

The overall unemployment rate in the U.S. is hovering around 6.4 percent'the highest since 1994. This figure is based on those who are still looking for work. The rate doesn't include hundreds of thousands of workers who have become so discouraged that they have stopped looking for a job altogether.

Over the past 28 months nearly 2.6 million jobs have been eliminated. Ninety percent of these lost jobs were based in the manufacturing sector.

This is a nightmare for the working class as a whole. But for African American workers in particular, the impact is even more devastating because of the historical legacy of discrimination'being the last hired, first fired.

The July 11 Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the unemployment rate for Black workers is rising at a much faster rate than at any other time since the mid-1970s. As a result, the rate for Black workers aged 20 and older has risen 3.5 percentage points'to 10.5 percent'compared to a 1.7 percentage point increase for white workers.

In 2000, 2.1 million Black workers held 10.1 percent of the 20 million manufacturing jobs in the U.S. The great majority of these jobs were landed during the economic boom of the 1990s.

Once the capitalist recession hit hard in March 2001, 15 percent of these 2.1 million jobs'or 300,000'were eliminated. More white workers lost jobs'1.7 million'but because they are much more numerous than Black workers, the percentage of whites who lost work was less.

Over a decade ago, the deepest concentration of manufacturing jobs for Black workers was in the Northeast and Mid west. According to the National Assoc iation of Manufacturers, today every state has lost manufacturing jobs as corporations pull up stakes and move factories to smaller towns and cities here and abroad where profits can be made by lowering wages and downsizing benefits. This is what is commonly referred to as “lowering labor costs.”

Autoliv, a Swedish-owned company that makes seat belts, recently shut down a plant in Indianapolis. Some 350 workers lost their jobs, 75 percent of them African American. Many of these workers never graduated from high school. With the loss of these jobs, they face the real prospect of committing crimes for survival that could eventually lead them to prison or even worse.

An important related factor is that the official June unemployment rate for those between the ages of 16 and 19 years old was 19.3 percent'and the Black teenager unemployment rate was among the fastest rising. (New York Times, July 14)


UNITE, the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, has made available data illustrating that the disproportionately large job losses for African Americans are not confined to those recently hired but affect workers who have been on the job for 20, 30 or more years. Textile mills that have been the economic mainstays of cities and towns in the South have shut down and set up sweat shops in Asia. This includes the loss of 1,000 jobs in Roanoke Rapids, N.C.; 1,500 in Martinsville, Va.; and 1,000 in Columbus, Ga. Factory closings not only mean lost wages and benefits but diminished pensions and tax revenues.

Bill Lucy, president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, stated, “The number of jobs and the types of jobs that have been lost have severely diminished the standing of many Blacks in the middle class.” (New York Times, July 12) By “middle class,” he means workers with steady jobs.

A random poll taken by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies asked 850 Black workers if they felt financially better off, worse off or about the same. When the poll was taken in October 2000, 45 percent said they were better off, 10 percent worse off and 44 percent said their situation had not changed. But exactly two years later, the numbers had dramatically changed to 19 percent, 42.6 percent and 36.7 percent, respectively.

Economic analysts love to tell workers to be patient and optimistic because the recovery is right around the corner. But a growing number of workers are not buying into this nonsense as they witness how the rich are getting richer with the assistance of the Bush tax breaks and the unimaginably large war budget.

And in periods of capitalist boom or bust, there is no denying that workers, regardless of their nationality, sex, gender, sexuality or age, are exploited for their ability to work by their bosses and the ruling class as a whole. There is no denying that capitalism, a system that feeds off profits at the expense of workers' needs, can never create full employment.

African American workers are not only exploited as workers. They are super-exploited by a racist system that relies heavily on institutionalized racism based on the false premise of white supremacy.

Under a divide-and-conquer system like the capitalist U.S., white workers must extend a hand of anti-racist solidarity to Black workers and all the oppressed in order to build the multinational unity needed to win the right of all workers to a decent-paying job and full benefits.