The September 19th issue of The New York Times, ran a report called, “U.S. Textile Plants Return, With Floors Largely Empty of People,” echoing our discussions of Post-Fordism in America. The article discusses the declining trend of outsourcing for textile production and the resurgence of factories in the southern United States—like those of American Giant and Parkdale Mills. The report discusses the economic shift from the angles of the business owner, the consumer, and the factory workers employed by the textile companies.

manufacturing jobs

Some business owners, Marx’s capitalists, now claim that using domestic labor leads to lower transportation costs and quicker turnaround. “Most striking,” the article states, “labor costs — the reason all these companies fled in the first place — aren’t that much higher than overseas because the factories that survived the outsourcing wave have largely turned to automation and are employing far fewer workers.”

According to the report, one of the driving factors pushing businesses hands to open shop in the U.S. was the complication of “monitoring worker safety in places like Bangladesh, where hundreds of textile workers have died in recent years in fires and other disasters… a huge challenge.” In this case we see the capitalist more concerned with the bottom-line than working to secure basic conditions for hard workers–it’s easier to just pack up and head home. The emotional and human dimension of the issues at play here are stripped in a capitalist logic of profit, not to Marx’s surprise.

While jobs are indeed coming back to they U.S., they are coming back in mostly different forms than the production jobs that had been an important part of the American labor force in the 20th century, and in far fewer numbers.

The lucky people that can land the highly sought after jobs at American textile factories look like Donna McKoy, a North Carolina woman featured in the article. McKoy lost her job at a textile factory when jobs were outsourced to China in the early 2000s, but after deciding to get an associates degree, McKoy is now back working in a textile factory. Not surprisingly, her role mainly supports the machinery carrying out the physical production. “On a typical 12-hour shift,” the article claims, “two of the 11 people on her team fix the spinning machines about 4,000 times, with robots’ help. She earns $47,000 a year and says the perks are good, like health care, an in-house nurse and monthly management classes for supervisors. She recently bought a three-bedroom house and owns a car.”

Many of the facts here illustrate Post-Fordism quite clearly in that production technologies have taken the place of the assembly line worker and that the contemporary worker is highly specialized. However in a reversal of Post-Ford theory, we may be seeing a decline in reliance on global labor markets.