Editorial: People Power Can Create Jobs

Vermont Yankee will lay off hundreds of high wage workers in the coming months. But reducing the workweek from 40 to 32 hours and subsidizing local apparel and shoe factories would create more jobs than the nuclear reactor ever did. Vermont Yankee is near Brattleboro, Greenfield, and Keene.

Mike Rotkin was elected mayor of Santa Cruz, California (population 63,000) five times. On January 8, he told the Valley Post that the towns of Brattleboro and Greenfield could help create jobs by improving Amtrak service to Northampton, New York City, and Boston. Currently there is just one round-trip train a day. More trains could be added. “That would allow workers to get to UMass Amherst and the other nearby colleges, and it would encourage tourists to come from Boston and New York City,” Rotkin said.

UMass Amherst employs about 900 professors and thousands of staff people. It is a short bus or bicycle ride from Northampton. Bicycles are allowed on Amtrak. There is a bike path from Northampton to UMass that is separated from cars and trucks by a physical barrier.

Amtrak will be getting much faster in the Valley in the next few months, and the trip to New York City will get much faster next year when Connecticut completes a multi-million dollar project to improve train tracks there. (In November 2014, the Valley Post reported that Amtrak would get faster in the Valley in December 2014; that has been delayed by a few months.)

Labor Notes magazine has been published monthly since 1979. The magazine puts on a conference once every two years that is attended by thousands of people. Labor Notes has offices in Detroit and New York City and it publishes a book called Time Out: The Case for a Shorter Work Week. It argues that reducing the workweek to 32 hours while keeping workers' income the same would reduce unemployment. The book is available for $4 at:

http://labornotes.org/store/time-out?language=en

Pushing Congress to reduce the workweek from 40 to 32 hours will take a mass movement. But it has happened before. The normal workweek in the USA was 60 hours until 1938, when a series of workers' strikes led Congress and the president to reduce it to 40 hours.

The movement to close Vermont Yankee, which succeeded last year, also involved protests by working class people against a powerful corporation.

Another way to create jobs in the area where Vermont Yankee workers live is for the governors and state legislatures of Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire to raise taxes on millionaires and use the money to create apparel and shoe factories.

LL Bean owns a shoe factory in Maine that employs hundreds of people. American Apparel employs hundreds of people at its factory in California that makes t-shirts, pants, sweatshirts, and underwear. Similar factories could be built in Brattleboro, Keene and Greenfield.

Rotkin said rich people will threaten to move to another state if their taxes go up. "That's a myth," he said. If rich people wanted to live where taxes are lowest, they would all live in states like Texas and North Dakota, and in nations like Somalia, which had “no effective government” from 1991 until 2012, according to the BBC.

Taxes on millionaires could also fund subsidies for local organic farms to expand and hire more workers, and for the construction of energy efficient apartment buildings near the Amtrak stations in Greenfield and Brattleboro, and near the Greyhound station in Keene. These buildings could provide housing for people who now live in run-down, drafty single-family houses that are far from public transit stops.

The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant received hundreds of millions of dollars in government subsidies. It never would have been built, and never could have operated, without those subsidies.

Comments

Vermont values

Thank you for providing the stimulus and space to dream. I envision people in Vermont taking their lambs wool to be spun into yarn using water wheels (non-polluting). It would not be a factory where the identity of the fleece is lost to standardization and mass-production, but a "micro-brewery" model in which people can put their fleece into a small (portable? computerized?) carder and spinner and retain the quality, color and luster of their own unique wool. Do any of the workers laid off from the power plant have engineering skills and an entrepeneurial spirit?

Are factory wages comparable to VT Yankee salaries

Great Editorial! Just questioning the wages for factory workers and why a company would locate in the tri-state corner vs China where there is essentially slave labor? I like the farm idea. How to make those jobs living wage with benefits would be a big step for the growing small farm movement.
Thank you for the ideas to mull over. There are possibilities out there. One door closes a new one opens!

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