Is Anything Still Made in America?
It’s time to Re:Build American Manufacturing
Toyota, a foreign-owned auto manufacturer, assembles the Tundra truck in Texas.
Have you seen that hip new Santa Cruz truck-thing on the road? It’s a Hyundai – assembled in Alabama.
What about American auto brands? Ford’s F150 is still made in Dearborn and Kansas City (for now) – but, a quick google search tells you that only 55% of the parts are made in the USA and 3000 employees were laid off in mid-August.
So who made the Tundra? The Santa Cruz? Who will make the F150 in ‘23?
What is “American Made” anymore?
A US apparel brand called Lions Not Sheep has been in the fray on the blurred lines of “Made in America” over the last few months. The Federal Trade Commission fined them over $200,000 for purportedly claiming that their apparel was indeed “Made in America”. The brand proudly sports flags, patriotic statements, tough-guy ruggedness, and every purchase comes with a copy of the US Constitution. With that bravado you’d expect that every thread they sell is cotton picked in the US South, woven in the US Garment Districts (do those even exist anymore?), dyed in the US Heartland, printed in a factory on the shimmering Pacific coast, and blessed by a Bald Eagle before shipping in US-made cardboard boxes. G-D Bless America, right!??!
Depending on your position on what it means to be “Made in the USA” and your openness to interpreting this broadly, they may have been disingenuous. The LNS brand was said to have been taking “Made in China” tags off of their shirts before printing them with graphics. On the surface that seems downright awful to some, but by comparison, is a Hyundai Santa Cruz made in the USA? The entire vehicle is assembled here, right? The supply chain of products from raw metals to whole assemblies of parts like fuel pumps and alternators and CV-joints is sourced from all over the place. How do we view “Made in America” (Hear from Sean Whalen, owner of LNS about his FTC Battle) when in many cases we assemble here with pride as American laborers yet the parts we use come from somewhere else?
Globalization of the supply chain has complicated our patriotic anthem of “Made in America”. To we Americans this is not about tracking imports and exports – it’s a matter of both pride and national self-preservation. We understand that the more we make, and make well, the more We The People can survive and thrive. Interestingly, however, the blurred lines that the likes of Toyota and Hyundai and Ford, and Lions Not Sheep, are revealing tell us a story of globalization and how it affects our once tried and true mantra.
Labor Day’s Black Eye
In my lifetime Labor has not meant anything about labor unions. It’s meant a day off – ironic as that seems – and time to do a very American thing and grill hamburgers and hots. There was a time when Labor Day meant something more remarkable. Labor Day was an acknowledgment that Laborers are worthy of a good wage, healthy working environments, and respect. Labor Unions toiled and fought to right many wrongs that large corporations unduly burdened their employees with. There was a time when human capital was treated worse than the iron machinery the humans used to make the goods companies sold. Labor Day celebrates the victory of both the unions and culture at large as we extended respect and the benefits of that respect to workers of all kinds.
Over the course of 12 decades since the US Government recognized Labor Day as a national holiday the “Labor Movement” has had its many victories. For instance, it’s hard to argue with the idea that labor in the US is safer than it has ever been. Unfortunately, one of the challenges inherent in the Labor Movement that would only start to become pronounced in the last 50 years or so, has been that the very ships and planes that US Labor created are able now to move about the globe in such a way that it has globalized the labor market. Now, proud unions who hold wage standards high – rightly focusing on protecting their people – have faced countless uncertain times as offshoring of manufacturing has benefited businesses and laid off Americans.
If you grew up in the 1980’s like I did then you’ll remember hearing your parents discuss how manufacturing is “going downhill” and how we “can’t compete” with – insert a foreign country’s name here. And so it was, 40 years ago when offshoring became a painful experience in the rapid globalization of economies. It seems though that in very recent years there has been a shift in global manufacturing to something wholly new and different.
Labor Changing Trends to Watch
In recent decades there has been a supply chain awakening. It is quite evident that there is a business advantage to making goods for a market by assembling them within the market just like Toyota, Hyundai and Ford do. Shipping in parts and assembling cars here is working for business. That’s a great trend for American laborers.
Another trend is the “Pandemic Awakening” whereby we now know that reliance on foreign countries to supply life-sustaining products is a dangerous position on all fronts. Our safety, our political sovereignty, and our economy were all under threat from our global reliance on foreign-supplied goods. Simple things like face masks weren’t available. Hand sanitizer was hard to get and alcohol manufacturers had to retool just to supply the product. We understand now, from learning a very hard lesson, that we MUST reshore manufacturing of critical assets. This will only serve to create openings for jobs that American Laborers can fill.
And therein lies the conundrum we face. There is a massive opportunity in the labor market for middle-skilled workers to help the USA take on the challenge of reshoring critical manufacturing infrastructure. WIth the need to bring manufacturing “home” to the USA we already have seen and will continue to experience a labor supply shortage. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg issue – do we bring manufacturing home – or can we even – with labor supply being as low as it currently is OR do we increase labor supply and wait for manufacturing to come home to the open arms of a labor surplus?
The answer, as you can imagine, is YES. This macroeconomic push and pull is solved when the micro economy of individual businesses and possibly the larger markets for their products and services work for their own benefit to solve their own problems. There is no law or incentive that will fix this in one pen stroke.
Why Pick on Labor, on Labor Day?
First, there is no picking here. Hardworking, smart Americans are the backbone of domestic manufacturing. We celebrate workers – our own, our partners, and all workers nationwide. We also know that the legacy of work being sent abroad and now the trend of it trying to come home is a challenge we must passionately take on. We need to tell everyone, everywhere, that there is freedom and nobility in the pursuit of middle-skilled work in manufacturing trades. We need to explain to our children – especially teens – that the work of your hands is not divorced from the work of your mind. The pride you take in your labors shows in every weld, every wrench turned, every new solution implemented, every completed assembly, and in the lives your creations affect.
We must put behind us all of the days when people demanded, “go to college, a life with dirt under your nails is beneath you”.
THEY. WERE. WRONG… Dirt is Good!
Callouses are earned.
And neither say a thing about your worth or your mental faculties.
Labor Day, to me, meant nothing. My upbringing was very clear: run from the manufacturing floor. I’m not alone. Our parent’s generation had it wrong, yet they had no context to know that it was indeed wrong in the long run. We can’t fault them – they wanted us to live good lives. Sadly, that cultural trend has netted us a perilous time that can only be corrected when we wholesale embrace labor once again.
Labor Day’s modern meaning is clear – Freedom and the American Way.
What the ______________ is Made In America, then?
This year when you pass the relish, look at the package. It’s a bottle, it’s a label, it’s ink on the label, it’s full of ingredients. And some of it you can bet didn’t get made here in the USA. What’s “Made in the USA” is a percentage – and a voodoo percentage at that – which allows us to take some well-earned pride in the work of our hands. It’s a reminder that making stuff here is good. It’s the truth that we can’t make EVERYTHING but damn it we should try harder to do just that.
The goal should be that the relish on your dog, and the dog itself, & your car and every badass T-shirt is made 100% here.
Who’s gonna step up and make this change?
Us. Re:Build Manufacturing. That’s Who.
Scroll to the top of this page. Seriously, go look at our name. Re:Build Manufacturing. There are a lot of people in the USA crying out, “Reshore Manufacturing”, “Bring Jobs Home”. That’s our outcry, too. Somebody has to do the hard part and DO THE WORK. What work? We, the people of the United States, must organize ourselves in such a way that the work can and SHOULD be done here. Frankly, we have to earn the right back to do the work. Don’t forget that we work in a largely free market world where the best people with the best solutions and the best pricing for those solutions win the opportunity to do the work because the end consumers of this world will only pay what they are able to and/or willing to pay.
This is why Re:Build Manufacturing exists. We are a family of intensely collaborative specialized businesses, highly capable in the development of cutting-edge technologies, operational excellence, and industrial automation. We are America’s next-gen industrial company. We are the model that unlocks the “how” behind the outcry of “Bring Jobs Home”. Our collaboration ecosystem has only just begun but we have proof of concept already. We’re beyond our own rapid prototype of how to begin to Re:Build Manufacturing in the USA. We’re doing it.
It doesn’t stop with us, though, and we can’t change the whole US Manufacturing economy alone. Here’s your part.
We Challenge You…
We challenge you, dear fellow American, to talk about the merits of hard work with your family as you take your day off.
We challenge you, dear fellow American, to look at the objects around you and wonder how much of it was made by fellow taxpayers… and want it to be 100%.
We challenge you, to expand the vision of the kids in your world as you talk with them about the fulfilling work they can do with their hands and minds.
We challenge you, to find a hobby that uses your hands if you don’t work with them already to reground yourself in what it means to appreciate the fruits of your labor.
We challenge you, to find a labor day parade and wave a flag at it.
And, We challenge you, to never see Labor Day as just a day off again.
100% Made in the USA doesn’t happen without your sweat, too.
About the Author:
Josh Pies is a multi-awarded Film, TV & Advertising Producer/Director. In 2016 he wrote and produced the Elevate Iowa documentary series on Advanced Manufacturing and in 2017 he co-created the manufacturing reality show Reality Redesigned. Josh is the Executive Producer & “Chief Attention Getter” at C47 Film Associates (www.C47Films.com). C47 Films produces visual content and creates branding solutions for businesses across the United States. Read more from Josh at https://c47films.com/blog/.