Labor Day 2014: Where have all the jobs gone?

A friend called the other day and said, “Did you see the comics page in the Herald on Labor Day? There was one with a big room full of empty desks except for one worker. The boss was reading a greeting card that said ‘From your fellow workers in India, Happy Labor Day.’”

The joke, if you could call it a joke, was that all the jobs have moved to India. But, you know that really isn’t true. Many more jobs have been lost to automation than have been exported to India.

There is a commercial for Cadillac. I love it because of the catchy tune. A bunch of mechanical arms swing to the music while a fancy new Cadillac drives into the picture. It reminds us that jobs weren’t lost to India. They were lost to automation. Today it takes one-tenth the workers to build a car over the numbers required just 20 years ago.

When was the last time you called your bank and spoke to a human being? Automation. Ride a Metrobus or Metrorail? Try speaking to a human being about a bus or train schedule. Automation.

A friend, visiting Miami, tried to buy a bus ticket for a short trip north. You will not believe this but the cost was $26 if purchased over the Internet and $45 if you purchased the ticket at the bus terminal from a human being. It’s true!

Here’s a great one. A hotel in California has replaced its bellhops (a name out of the past) with robotic bellhops. They will take you to your room, take restaurant orders on a screen on the robot and bring you your newspaper in the morning. You never tip for service. And best off all they’re never late for work.

Car wash — need I say more?

Do you have the Miami Herald delivered to your door by a human being or do you subscribe over the Internet? I read the Sunday New York Times on the Internet waiting for the home delivery of my Herald.

Are you old enough to remember when a gas station attendant filled your car with gas, checked your oil and washed the front window? All entry-level jobs but a place for youth to enter the workforce.

Factories, like the Cadillac ad depicted, have lost jobs by the tens of thousands to automation. Those jobs will not return from India because they never went to India. They went to automation.

Do you remember when the garbage truck had a driver and a couple of workers hanging on the back of the truck dumping your trash cans into the truck? Not anymore. One truck, one driver and the rest is automated.

I remember when Burdines department store (Now Macy’s) on Flagler Street had an elevator operator who opened and closed the door announcing what was sold on each floor. Today? Get on the elevator and a recorded voice announces the floors. Automation.

However, as the economy of India grows and their employees demand higher wages many jobs will return to the United States. Many already have started to return. But automation will continue to grow.

The problem is not automation. It is us. We were trained to do things one way. We assembled cars by hand with the “help” of machines. We must intensify training our youth the new way. We must retrain the older worker to do it the new way to get them back on the job.

We must change. We must learn. We must teach. That is the responsibility of our educational system. We are heading in that direction with our youth. The problem is the unemployed that only remember the “old” way.

That person needs our help.

We appreciate your opinions on this column whether in agreement or disagreement. Send your comments to (fax number) 305-662-6980 or email to Kenneth.Bluh@ColumbusCL.com. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of this newspaper, its editors or publisher.


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About the Author

Kenneth Bluh
Kenneth has been writing a column for Community Newspapers since 1989 when he first wrote about the incorporation movement in UMSA (Unincorporated Municipal Services Area). His columns cover the political scene in Miami-Dade and Tallahassee. Educated at the Wharton School in Philadelphia, Kenneth has been a member of the banking/mortgage lending profession in Florida since 1962. Contact him at kbluh@americanbsm.com or 786-247-0547 where he manages American Bancshares Mortgage LLC’s Reverse Mortgage Department.

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