Turbine industry wants young new wife

ball bearingAlternative energy ventures, through the efforts of their lobbyists, can’t find the workforce they need in Ohio. While the area boasts one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates, many of those workers are from the decimated steel industry. NPR Morning Edition reported yesterday that would-be wind turbine manufacturer Rotek Inc, for example, doesn’t agree that United Steel Workers Union members are right for the job.

Unions assert that the jobs aren’t offering sufficient wages. NPR uncritically countered that “The starting salary with benefits at many wind turbine plants in Ohio can range to $30,000 a year.”

The NPR report left the impression that manufacturers wanted to move into the alternative energy field, but were being thwarted by the unreasonable expectations of US labor. This may be true. But an industry promising new poor jobs is no gift horse. Shouldn’t workers look it in the mouth before entrusting futures, communities and livelihoods to it?

NPR’s Julie Grant summarized the manufacturer objections with, thankfully, a some-people-say type attribution:

“the new companies, the ones already making part for wind turbines, say they don’t want burned out workers with low morale. What they need are workers open to spending a couple of years in training, who can think on their feet, and are excited to be part of the new economy they’ re helping to create.”

The “new economy they’re helping to create?” Would that be the new economy placing the employee as being working poor? What would a radio reporter herself think of a job that requires two years of training, at the employee’s expense, to yield a $30K salary? The workforce in question are already experienced steelworkers. The wind turbine jobs are steel manufacturing jobs. They’re not looking for high tech design positions.

Lobbyist group the Apollo Alliance, which NPR labeled a Clean Energy think tank, suggests the government should subsidize the training period.

So here I believe is the crux of what alternative energy investors are after. We can’t argue that low wages are here to stay. America’s new economy will no longer support the upward middle class American Dream of the Baby Boomers. So factory workers are going to work for half the pay, if they want work at all. But do they need to be trained to do it?

The wind turbine manufacturing industry is suggesting that its labor force needs two years of training, paid for by the US taxpayer. Does that make sense to you? You get the bill, the workers get subsistence wages, and the factory owners get free labor. For two years. Likely employees are not going to stick around for the promise of $30K/yr, so the two year transitions will last as long as the government subsidies allow.

Industrialists are always looking for low wage workers, even slave labor, when they can.

NPR cited the example of Rotek Inc. “Rotek one of 75 companies here that have started making parts for wind turbines.” The report mentions an $80 million investment, but implies that Rotek is a startup that requires subsidies, tax credits and willing partner-employees. NPR didn’t mention that Rotek is a subsidiary of Rothe Erde, of Dortmund, Germany ($15.3 billion, 55,000 employees), which is a subsidiary of the ThyssenKrupp Group, Essen, Germany ($68.7 billion, 191,000 employees) of Krupp infamy. Founder Alfred Krupp was tried in Nuremberg for using concentration camp labor in his factories during the war, some of them even prisoners of war.

Krupp was the chief architect of the Nazi armaments machine. Hitler even passed a law which established the Krupp family as a monopolist dynasty immune from inheritance tax. After Krupp’s conviction, a New York Banker succeeded in lobbying for a pardon for Alfred Krupp, and reversing the sentence that his industrial holdings be forfeited.

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