U.S. Bridges made in China?

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GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4111
U.S. Bridges made in China?

With talk of a new stimulus to create jobs and build infrastructure, should these contracts be allowed to go to Chinese companies?

http://abcnews.go.com/US/bringing_america_back/american-infrastructure-jobs-shipped-china/story?id=14592567
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/26/business/global/26bridge.html?pagewanted=all

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4099

From one of those articles:

"One issue that you will consistently hear every time you go to a fabrication site in this country is that they struggle at this point in time to obtain welders," said Tony Anziano, a Caltrans official.

My sister works for Caltrans, building bridges, and she says exactly the same thing. They simply can't find domestic companies that can produce what they need, when they need it, to their precise specifications, and at the agreed-upon cost. When you have a project like the Bay Bridge, you need to be able to rely on your supplier. And sadly, American companies haven't been able to be *that* reliable in the past 15 or 20 years. Kids who aren't college-bound have few resources to learn a trade, and as a society we've moved away from industrial technologies so there are fewer opportunities for those who learn a trade to use it in a mass-production way. The article points out that many of the Chinese companies are government-supported which means their operating costs are lower so they can offer a lower sale price. It might not be a bad idea for the U.S. to try.

wlillie's picture
Joined: 09/17/07
Posts: 1796

Huh. So instead of using the money to pay US workers to learn the trade, we'd rather ship the work overseas? Sounds like *exactly* what got us in this financial mess in the first place. Lets contribute to the terrible living conditions the workers in China are dealing with by sending them more work to do and keep letting the unions/taxes/regulations make it impossible for companies here to compete. Brilliant.

ErikaArcher's picture
Joined: 09/06/04
Posts: 379

(an aside)My Dh's family is in tool and die and they are always in need of highly skills tech jobs and it's getting harder and harder to find these workers. My FIL will argue that too many kids who would have otherwise gone to technical schools are pushed into colleges and college isn't for everybody.

To the question: NO

Infrastructure jobs not being performed and sourced by American workers/companies are not bennefiting American jobs.

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

If they can't send them overseas they should be allowed to cut wages or not have to pay so much in taxes or regulations to make it worthwhile.

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4099

"Rivergallery" wrote:

If they can't send them overseas they should be allowed to cut wages or not have to pay so much in taxes or regulations to make it worthwhile.

Are you volunteering to be one of those making a lower wage? People who aren't paid what they are worth don't generally do a very good job, and when you're building something like a bridge that needs to stand for the next 100 years, you can't skimp on doing the job well. Are you willing to accept less safety on structures that tens of thousands of people drive over every day? That's what those taxes & regulations are doing, paying the bridge inspectors & safety oversight people. I don't think shipping this work to China is the answer, but cutting corners on safety shouldn't be the answer, either.

wlillie's picture
Joined: 09/17/07
Posts: 1796

Sending the work to China is 100% cutting corners on safety. If you look at most of the recent recalls in regards to almost *everything* to do with children, there is a label that says Made in China somewhere on it. I'd rather someone make $12 an hour in the US make me something than someone in China making $12 a day.

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

Ditto wlillie, and what is a "job worth" is very subjective, I would rather a job go to an american earning $5 an hour even than sent overseas. AND if we didn't have as many entitlements and handouts for non-working members of society they would take the lower paying jobs because it would be better than welfare... and guess what, the costs of goods would decrease because they wouldn't cost so much to make. Ever notice everytime the increase min wage the costs of goods like milk and bread increase?

Obama actually has a plan to cut taxes on corps keeping jobs at home.. wonder what happened to that.

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

Oh and I am curious as to WHY you think companies haven't been reliable. I will agree that they haven't been but venture to say we have different reasons as to why they haven't been.

Joined: 03/14/09
Posts: 624

"Rivergallery" wrote:

If they can't send them overseas they should be allowed to cut wages or not have to pay so much in taxes or regulations to make it worthwhile.

They can't get workers at $20 an hour, so how would they get the highly skilled workers at $5 an hour? They need to pay people more, not less.

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

And again the question is why? And how can you run a business if you keep having to pay out more? More for regs, more for taxes, more for wages? The answer? SEND it overseas! The only way to change that is to reduce the corp's cost to run business and keep it in America.. otherwise go ahead and make them pay $50 per hour and watch the corps send all their business overseas. And not only won't their be $20 per hour jobs there will be NONE.

Joined: 06/04/07
Posts: 1368

"Spacers" wrote:

From one of those articles:

My sister works for Caltrans, building bridges, and she says exactly the same thing. They simply can't find domestic companies that can produce what they need, when they need it, to their precise specifications, and at the agreed-upon cost. When you have a project like the Bay Bridge, you need to be able to rely on your supplier. And sadly, American companies haven't been able to be *that* reliable in the past 15 or 20 years. Kids who aren't college-bound have few resources to learn a trade, and as a society we've moved away from industrial technologies so there are fewer opportunities for those who learn a trade to use it in a mass-production way. The article points out that many of the Chinese companies are government-supported which means their operating costs are lower so they can offer a lower sale price. It might not be a bad idea for the U.S. to try.

I agree. And why not give more incentives for kids to be looking at this trade? Like reduced or free tuition/scholarships for those that complete their tech degree in those fields and have the kids agree to work for the company that's sponsoring them for a minimum specified amount of time. They do this for other fields of study.

GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4111

In a way aren't they circumventing their own labor laws by sending work overseas? After all part of the reason that they wouldn't be able to train workers quickly to do the work is because the unions require a 4 year apprenticeship, and then also stipulate how many apprentices you can have per experienced worker. I'm sure the Chinese workers who will be doing the labor don't have to meet those same requirements. If they would drop the requirements on U.S. workers instead they could probably do the work in the U.S.

http://www.dir.ca.gov/das/MITC/MITC/FieldIronWorker/FieldIronworker.pdf
http://www.laschools.org/contractor/lc/documents/download/job-start-meeting/apprenticeship-ratios/Ratio_List_7_3_08__7___7___2_.pdf?version_id=17842805

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

exactly!

RebeccaA'07's picture
Joined: 11/19/07
Posts: 1628

They should try to offer education on those trades in the US before just shipping them off. There is always someone looking for a job, regardless of pay, and would be happy to learn the trade if given a chance. The quality can't be any better in China, look at all of the recalls coming from Chinese made products recently.

Joined: 03/14/09
Posts: 624

"Rivergallery" wrote:

And again the question is why? And how can you run a business if you keep having to pay out more? More for regs, more for taxes, more for wages? The answer? SEND it overseas! The only way to change that is to reduce the corp's cost to run business and keep it in America.. otherwise go ahead and make them pay $50 per hour and watch the corps send all their business overseas. And not only won't their be $20 per hour jobs there will be NONE.

Lots of people run businesses having to pay more. That's the whole point. The better your workers are, the better the quality. That's what people pay for.

If you want to reduce costs the first thing to do is to reduce profits to shareholders, not skimp on your product, and when you have good workers they are your product.

What's the most famous corporation ever in the world? The Ford Corporation. They were the first to pay their employees enough to actually buy their own cars, thus increasing demand. They didn't get where they did by skimping.

So if we take your idea, and cut down those $20 to $5 an hour, you will lose the skilled workers to countries with decent labour laws, you will have no one to make the bridge, and the few workers who are unskilled and therefore willing to take on the jobs of the skilled after they leave them are going to quickly find out that their costs don't make it worthwhile. Everything costs more in the US than in China (not for long!!!) so the workers will be unable to fed decently or have a roof over their heads. Plus they won't be paying taxes (under the poverty threshold) and they won't be buying anything. What does this lead to? Deeper recession, depression, a US economy that has nothing, not even workers.

China is getting ahead because its skilled workers are making more and more every day. Learn from them or America will be unable to compete.

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