Aerospace companies are streaming to Mexico, drawn by lower wages, enthusiastic government promotion, a new safety agreement with the United States and an increasingly sophisticated workforce.Engineers fare a little better. They earn anywhere from $5.80 to $8.70 an hour. The lower costs translate into a 30 percent savings on parts even after transportation gets added back in. Mexico's aerospace-related exports have more than tripled since 2004.
In a new plant in the central Mexican city of Querétaro, workers who make $3.50 an hour are building rudders and bundles of wiring for airliners. Across town, engineers at General Electric's research center are designing jet engines. In a nearby industrial park, workers are overhauling landing gear at a gleaming new plant.
How are American workers supposed to compete with those wages? The impact on jobs has been minimal so far, but workers see the writing on the wall.
Companies say that, because of a booming market for aircraft worldwide, the move to Mexico has not resulted in major layoffs in the United States. But American unions are afraid it might if aviation takes a downturn.So much for the myth that NAFTA was going to help American workers. When is the United States going to sign an agreement that benefits workers here at home?
"This is a technological base, an important industrial base for our country, and we're just giving it up," said Ron Eldridge, aerospace coordinator for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
Industry officials liken the trend to the 1980s, when U.S. companies moved from making auto parts in Mexico to assembling entire vehicles there. Now, Mexico exports $42 billion in cars and auto parts every year.
"Mexico's vision is to do the same thing they did with the auto industry," said Real Gervais, head of Bombardier's operations in Mexico. "There's a lot of potential."
Airline maintenance is also heading south, which hits my family personally. My son-in-law recently graduated from an airline mechanics school. He picked that career because he felt it would be stable employment and couldn't be outsourced. We all did, but it looks like we were wrong.
Mexico also is becoming a center for maintenance as airlines look for cheaper places to have their planes fixed. [...]Yeah, right, and it's going to blow up a whole lot of American jobs too.
At least one U.S. airline, Delta, is already sending entire planes to Mexico for maintenance work. In 2006, it signed a deal handing heavy maintenance of 120 of its planes over to Aeromexico, an airline.
The Mexican government is hoping exports will grow even faster in the wake of a new Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement signed with the United States in September.
The pact allows Mexican officials to certify new aircraft parts instead of shipping them to the United States for inspection.
"It's a great logistical advantage," Roch said. "It's going to be a detonator for the industry."
It's no longer enough for a person to play by the rules, get an education and work hard. There will always be someone in another country willing to work for less. Where is it all going to end? Who will save us? We know we can't depend on the Republicans so it's up to the Democrats. I sure hope they win the White House and lots of seats in November. Workers can't hold on much longer.
(Cross-posted at Blogging For MI.)