On Tuesday labor leaders, government officials, business representatives, along with workforce and community development advocates gathered to discuss the future of manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania. The Manufacturing a Better Paying Pennsylvania Symposium was co-hosted by the Century Foundation, the Steel Valley Authority, Keystone Research Center and the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO at the United Steelworkers headquarters in Pittsburgh.
President Leo Gerard of the United Steelworkers gave the keynote address. While many would describe the manufacturing centers across Pennsylvania and neighboring states as the “rust belt”, President Gerard spoke to the future of the “Manufacturing Heartland”. He emphasized the need to put working people’s capital behind good union jobs and industries that raise the standard of living for workers. As an ardent advocate for fair trade, President Gerard stated that there is no such thing as “free” trade when working people in Mexico are making $1.60 an hour.
President Gerard highlighted that the future of advanced manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania and around the country will be dependent on investment in apprenticeship programs and workforce education. He noted the incredible impact of public-private partnerships that have revitalized communities and industries by working together. His address made clear that the future of manufacturing in Pennsylvania is a bright one.
The day featured panels with experts from across the Commonwealth and the country. Many different ideas were discussed ranging from Industrial Manufacturing Apprenticeship programs, the development of a more diverse manufacturing workforce, closing the skills gap, and the impacts of trade policies on the industry. PA AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale commented on the need to link communities with high unemployment to areas in need of skilled labor. The future of manufacturing in Pennsylvania does indeed have logistical challenges to be addressed, but the dedication of the individuals and organizations present for the day’s discussion make it clear that there are also solutions.
The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO is excited to continue the discussion and collaboration with community and development partners to rebuild manufacturing in our Commonwealth. The state federation has convened an Industrial Union Council of its own to chart out a future of high-paying jobs for Pennsylvanians.