Sunday, January 22, 2017

Back and forth to Mexico

Every Sunday the Toronto Star includes The New York Times International Weekly with their paper. I used to think that was intended to give us hicks in the sticks a taste of big league journalism, but that may only be the half of it. The other half might be the fact the Star puts out its paper with about one third of the journalists they had on staff ten years ago.

I'm guessing it's way cheaper to buy a dozen pages of stale-dated NYT content than it is to produce an equivalent amount of original content in-house.

On page 10 of my NYT International Weekly is a story by Azam Ahmed and Elisabeth Malkin, "Mexicans Also See Nafta Failing." In the story we meet Jorge Martinez, who has worked at Prolec for ten years. Prolec is a joint venture with General Electric that builds transformers.

Back in the mid-seventies I worked at the General Electric transformer plant on Woodlawn Road in Guelph. One of my workmates became a modest celeb, famous in our circle for taking his Econoline van on a road trip to Mexico on his summer holiday and coming home with fifty pounds of weed stuffed under the floorboards.

Those were naive and innocent times. Buddy got out of the drug-running game while the getting was still good. General Electric got out of the transformer plant in Guelph and now builds transformers in Mexico instead.

Jorge Martinez makes about $100 per week for a six day workweek. In 2017. That's less than half of what we made for a five day workweek almost forty years ago. Figure in inflation and GE is paying Jorge about 10% of what they used pay us to build transformers in Guelph.

For almost forty years the prevailing wisdom emanating from the pundits and opinion makers and politicians was that "free trade" was good for us. We knew otherwise. It wasn't until the 2016 White House race, when both Trump and Sanders picked up on the issue, that the prevailing wisdom was challenged.

But the pundits and opinion makers and professional politicians still can't figure out how Donald Trump got elected.

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