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The once great city of Flint, Michigan.
Like so many other cities seen in the regional map above - Flint's population and fortunes grew as a result of the heavy industries at the time were "consumers of labor". This demand drew individuals and family to the region. From this "accelerant" communities were constructed along with the homes within them. The income of these working people and their need for services created a tax base. From these well-funded governments came:
- Public Libraries
- Police Services
- Fire Services and Related Equipment
- Parks & Recreation
- Well Maintained Water & Sewer Systems and other Public Works
More specifically - As the economic forces that built up the city of Flint began to diversify their locations for industrial production Flint Michigan's economic wherewithal began to shrink and the people that remained there suffered accordingly.
While all of the videos listed above are important - Part 5 specifically focuses on the issue of economics. More importantly a sampling of the people's viewpoint on economics as it relates to their relationship with the industries that helped build up the city is put forth in plain view.
I found the woman who believed that she and other workers were "first wives" of General Motors and, in effect, deserve "alimony and child support" now that their "ex-husband" has moved on to be quite interesting. If we focus on the foundings of the "Buick Auto-Vim and Power Company" by David Dunbar. Buick Motors was the first company created into what would later become the holding company known as "General Motors". This was a creation of the individual initiative by Dunbar, and later others, to meet the market demand by assembling resources that were employed to manufacture cars. All of the capital risk was placed on the backs of these entrepreneurs and later the shareholders who funded the enterprise.
The "sellers of labor" were a critical piece in the success of General Motors and all of the other businesses in the area. From my viewpoint the evidence of the value of the exchange between them and GM is the prosperity that the city has expressed.
Every single employee that entered the doors of the GM production plant was an employee of "free will". They could choose to walk out of the door for any reason, leaving it to the managers of the company to find a replacement for that particular shift or even step in and doing that function herself in the event of an emergency.
The employment contract between the labor unions and General Motors identified the terms for employment. Salary and benefit packages. Terms by which any of them could be fired, in some cases mandating retraining and/or the option for transfer. There was no mention of what the employee "owed" General Motors beyond 8 hours of their finest work in support of the operation.
With all of this in mind it is quite interesting to listen to the woman in part 5 detail some "implied RIGHTS" that were created because she was allowed to live at a far higher STANDARD OF LIVING as an employee than what the exact plot of land offered prior to GM. If we were a fly on the wall in the conference room in which the labor contract negotiations had been conducted for the past 40 years - I am not sure that we would hear any mention about the "connectedness" of labor to the host corporation. They were seeking to maximize their particular advantage per their relationship as a "labor supplier" with EXCLUSIVITY. Let me be clear THIS IS WHAT THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN DOING!! Identifying the interests of the individuals they were representing and seeking the best possible deal for them. The goal of a union is to identify the "size of the total pie" of financial resources that is present in the ecosystem of prosperity for the firm and maximize the "slice" of the pie that is taken home by the "suppliers of labor".
In my view the "suppliers of labor", via their union representatives too often failed to consider the massive competitive forces that were weighing upon the various companies in the region identified on the map above. The frequent refrain about "rich executives" and the "deep pockets" of the corporations when it comes to liability cases clearly were carried into the negotiation room. The attempts by the corporation to demand concessions from the "suppliers of labor" was said to be a trick. The retained compensation by the executives as the "rank & file" were taking it on the chin was the main argument stiffening the resistance. It was only when masses of "favored" "white collar" employees were purged from payroll that people more universally accepted the plight of the company.
The kneejerk reaction which blames "globalization" and the associated "race toward zero wages" does not accurately capture the downward spiral of Flint and other cities. As these multi-hundred million-dollar plants reached the end of life (ie: 25 years) the resource managers had a decision to make: Gut the existing capital holdings in Flint and update them with new machine tools and other infrastructure elements and then negotiate with the labor unions to accept the new staffing requirements that these new plants require. OR they could move their production operations to a new region with lower labor overhead and regulations.
The woman in the video pointed to Mexico, etc as the new locations that her "ex husband" has moved to. A more accurate appraisal would be to note the presence of the Hyundai Motor Corporation plans in (just south of) Montgomery Alabama and (their Kia Motors Division) in West Point Georgia. Today the once sleepy town of West Point is now thriving with new homes and a growing tax base. The same increased economic activity that built up Flint is now at play in West Point and other cities.
While our recent economy has shown long lines at "unemployment lines" - the opening of the Kia plant produced a long, long line of people bidding for advertised opportunity which are now in operation.
The Policies And Priorities Of Flint Today
I while ago I noted that the narrative regarding the deflation of this region focuses on the "greed" of the corporations who "left the ex-wife" alone and unable to fend for "herself". That there needed to be a new and more accurate depiction of what really happened. Both "consumer of labor" and "sellers of labor" had interests that they acted upon. That both were ultimately bound by the realities of the marketplace within which they "sold and purchased" goods.
Failing to look at the COST of the policies and strategies of the forces of LABOR and GOVERNMENT and their hands in the eventual fate of the city and region merely insures that it will one day HAPPEN AGAIN. On this blog I frequently point out the complicity involved in those who agree to retain their ideological bias and thus choose to focus their scorn upon one side of the balance sheet or legislative coalition. It always is against their "ideological enemies". We must understand the gross difference between what can be agreed upon with this UNITY and what proves true because of it is a model that represents the REAL WORLD. One's bias and bigotry is the main force that skews this accurate representation of the model that they work upon.
How does someone look at the "Mission Accomplished" state of Flint from a political standpoint and yet agree to agree that none of the economic, regulatory and civic resource consequences that has befallen these areas has anything to do with the monopoly machine that dominates them? "YOU WON BUT YOU LOST!!!!"
I have learned over time that it is most important to shift the focus and debate away from the "Malcolm X Football Game" and the teams that play within the stadium, moving on to a focus upon the impact of the PEOPLE. These very people that the machine had the INTENTION on protecting and developing. Only a dispassionate question which asks "Are these people better off today after having promoted the 'favorable people' into power?" can precipitate change in thinking that will ultimately make changes in the fortunes of this area.
These people had FREE WILL as they took over the city. They emphasized certain practices and priorities as a means of providing an outlet to the young people. They also allowed some other gateways for change and growth to wither.
Yet as we see clear evidence of that which a significant portion of the Black community is stimulated by I am convinced that no amount of evidence that can be provided in the words of the people who are suffering - presented as TRANSPARENTLY AS POSSIBLE BY ME - is going to change the mindset. Causing people to actively REBUKE those who are active hijackers of our community consciousness.
The more abstract people's economic theories are allowed to fester - the more they will direct their angst upon others as the cause of their misfortune. The less they will construct the necessary infrastructure that will deploy their human resources as the primary support for their desired STANDARD OF LIVING.