Jobsby Former Representative William L. Enyart
Posted on 2013-12-10
ENYART. Thank you, Mr. Garamendi.
I am privileged to represent the people of southwestern Illinois, that swath of the great State running along the Mississippi River from just north of St. Louis, from Alton, Illinois, all the way south to Cairo. And those 12 counties of southern Illinois, southwestern Illinois, were once an industrial powerhouse.
It was said four decades ago, five decades ago, if you wanted to work, go to East St. Louis, Illinois, and there will be a job for you there. There were jobs in the steel mills. There were jobs in the packing houses. There were jobs in the stove foundries in Belleville. There were jobs in the coal mines of southern Illinois. Those jobs are, by and large, gone today.
There are a few bright spots. U.S. Steel has a plant in Granite City that is still pouring steel. Alton Steel in Alton, Illinois, has reopened. A local entrepreneur bought it, and they are pouring steel in Alton again.
But, you know, those jobs in the packing houses are gone. The jobs in the aluminum industry, those jobs are gone. And that is why they call it the rust belt, because so many of those factories are closing and rusting away.
Technology has changed a lot of that, and we need to adapt to that technology. And to that end, the assistant minority leader, Mr. Steny Hoyer, along with Mr. Garamendi and myself, introduced the JOBS Act. The JOBS Act is sitting here. It needs to be acted upon. We can't get the leadership to act upon it. But we introduced this JOBS Act, and we introduced it because there are really four priority areas that are central to achieving manufacturing growth in this country again: First of all, we need to have a national manufacturing strategy. Other countries have it. We need to have one. We need to have a strategy that pushes our manufacturing; Secondly, we need to promote the export of U.S.-made goods; Thirdly, we need to encourage businesses to bring jobs and bring innovation back to the shores of our country; and Lastly, we need to train and secure a 21st century workforce.
And that is really what the JOBS Act does. That act invests in our future. It invests in our infrastructure, our human infrastructure, the people who drive those machines and the people who drive our economy.
And it was interesting that Mr. Garamendi mentioned food stamps. I want to talk about food stamps for just a minute because far too many people in my district survive on food stamps.
Something like over 60 percent of the people on food stamps are children. It is not people who aren't working because they don't want to be working. Sixty percent are children who are in low-income families. And the bulk of the adults who are on food stamps are working adults, and they are working in minimum wage jobs. They are working in fast-food restaurants. They are working in other minimum wage jobs. And you can't raise a family in southern Illinois on a minimum wage job.
We need to have jobs that pay a living wage with good health insurance, with good fringe benefits that provide a living wage for families. When you do that, what happens? You don't have people on food stamps. You don't have people on unemployment. You, instead, have people who are paying taxes. You have people who are spurring the economy. You have people who are buying new pickup trucks and new curtains for the living room and so on and so forth, and that generates an economy that generates good jobs.
Now, to talk about the JOBS Act that Mr. Garamendi, Mr. Hoyer, and I introduced, what does it do? It is designed to support advanced manufacturing. Now, why do we want to support advanced manufacturing? We want to support advanced manufacturing because--there was an article in The Wall Street Journal just the other day. I have it right here, The Wall Street Journal, the journal of American business. Manufacturing jobs pay nearly 40 percent more than other jobs in our Nation's economy. That is why we need advanced manufacturing.
So our bill--Mr. Garamendi's bill, my bill, Mr. Hoyer's bill--would amend the Workforce Investment Act to provide targeted investment to partnerships with community colleges, local workforce investment boards, and advanced manufacturing firms to design and implement education and training programs for current and prospective workers.
Now, currently, the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College program does provide some funding for that type of thing; but, unfortunately, there is no assurance for investments in advanced manufacturing, and that is where we need to go in this Nation. What we need to do is to align the training opportunities for those advanced manufacturing firms, for their needs, for adaptability in the training of workers.
I toured the Anheuser-Busch brewery in St. Louis.