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Web Letter

Phelps's descriptions of the area where I was bred and buttered are accurate and thought-provoking. His overall history of the area from agricultural hub to industrial town highlights the effects of what companies provide when they are booming and the vacuum they inevitably leave when they are concerned only with profit. By our acceptance of profit over people we accept our lives on the companies terms.

Sadly, while we need labor unions now more than ever to curb the tide of multinational corporations, they instead mirror the dictatorial structure of top-down hierarchy. Phelps demonstrates that decent-paying jobs were not given voluntarily by GM; they were fought for by the rank and file. He also clearly shows that democratic actions such as the wildcat strikes of 1967 were seen by the UAW leadership as a threat .

Many unions believe that contracts should be negotiated behind doors and without involvement of rank-and-file workers. Do unions believe we can really have a resurgent labor movement without the involvement of workers?

This article reveals Mansfield, Ohio, as a microcosm of the nation as a whole. Many of my generation think we have to accept these terms of losing wages and benefits to help companies stay competitive. Hmm... during the years when we have seen the average worker's salary shrink, we have seen CEO pay and compensations blossom exponentially. He reminds us that decent-paying jobs were not given, they were won by democratic rank-and-file militancy.

Randy Voss

Wooster, OH

Feb 4 2010 - 3:40pm

Web Letter

If my name seems familiar, it is because I am one of those interviewed by the author for this article. Phelps has taken an extremely sensitive issue and treated it with the utmost respect. His descriptions of Mansfield are extremely accurate, but not in a manner as to be disparaging. The information provided in one of the previous letters was correct, we have done more with less. But I feel the author of that letter missed an important concept about Phelps's writing. He was not speaking strictly of the economic losses incurred by the closing of the Mansfield GM plant but of the human casualties that were incurred by this decision.

In conclusion, I feel Phelp's work to be a thought-provoking piece of literature, respectful of not only my personal situation but of the crisis facing the Mansfield area.

Charles Bias

Mansfield, OH

Jan 29 2010 - 1:28am

Web Letter

As a resident of Mansfield, I must say that Phelps’s reporting is spot on, from the local history and geography to the political changes that have occurred in this community over the past thirty years. He deftly links the fading veneer of prosperity with the retreat of worker solidarity--solidarity dissolved by single-issue politics. While I hold little economic hope for my town, perhaps the considered words in this article will sound a warning to others. Sitting idly by as working class unity decays is a prescription for the loss of prosperity for the many.

Paul Frey

Mansfield, OH

Jan 28 2010 - 10:49pm

Web Letter

The ultimate message of this article is in the résumé of the author. Ten years as a professor in Mansfield. Now employed in England. Too bad the people he writes of don't all have that mobility. Yet he makes a living on their trials and moves on.

mike flynn

New York , NY

Jan 27 2010 - 8:44pm

Web Letter

Reading this article, one would get the false impression that manufacturing in the US had declined. In fact, the bottom line is that it grew 270 percent from 1980 to 2007's peak.

But this great success in manufacturing occurred while the workforce shrank to about 34 percent of what it was in 1980. The difference is that manual labor was replaced by robots, computerized systems and other machines that eliminated drudgery work. Productivity is now up over eight times per worker compared to 1980.

This is identical to the trend in agriculture. America started with 90 percent of all workers in direct farming. As agricultural productivity grew, employment kept dropping, until it is now around one percent. Meanwhile, many farm commodities have huge surplusses.

All in all, the future looks very, very good, but, like the rows of hundreds of men using scythes and sickles to cut grain, the old jobs are not coming back.

John D. Froelich

Upper Darby, PA

Jan 23 2010 - 3:20am

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