Capital Moves: RCA's Seventy-Year Quest for Cheap Labor

Capital Moves: RCA's Seventy-Year Quest for Cheap Labor

Capital Moves: RCA's Seventy-Year Quest for Cheap Labor

Capital Moves: RCA's Seventy-Year Quest for Cheap Labor

Excerpt

A lot of people have built their dreams and their houses and their families around working for that company.” Bill Breeden, a trucker who hauled RCA television sets and parts between Indiana and the Mexican border, had just heard the announcement that the assembly plant in Bloomington was to be shut down permanently. “Those workers have given their life, really, and their blood, many times, under poor working conditions, for years and years to build a television, a product, that made a lot of people rich.” Management had given the labor force the option of taking an enormous wage cut in order to save their jobs, but the television makers knew when enough was enough. In 1998, when the factory gates shut for the final time, the last of the Bloomington jobs followed a well-worn trail carved by thousands of other RCA positions that had been slowly shifted to the company’s burgeoning factories in Ciudad Juárez since the 1960s. Many workers who were facing hard times in the NAFTA era vented their anger at the Mexicans who were “taking American jobs.” But Breeden, who was familiar with the workers of both nations, saw the issue in more complex terms. After all, he explained, “If someone was to come here and bring a plant here and offer us a job now, would we sit back and say, ‘Well, we can’t take this job because it’s somebody else’s job’? The fact is, we wouldn’t, and they realize that.”

Ironically, and unknowingly, the trucker had described exactly what the Indiana workers did when RCA relocated production out of Camden, New Jersey, to Bloomington almost sixty years earlier—they “took” the jobs of others.

This book examines not just RCA’s most recent move to Mexico but a whole series of relocations of the company’s radio and television manufacturing from the 1930s to the 1990s. Revealing a much longer and more complicated . . .

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