Manufacturing jobs are "No. 1" in President Barack Obama's jobs plan,
he said Tuesday at an Amazon shipping center in Chattanooga, Tenn., drawing
attention to what local watchers say is a vital part of the Inland Empire's
economic recovery and growth.
That's the related logistics and warehouse sector, which is central to the region's economy, said Guadalupe Palma, director of Warehouse Workers United.
"It relates directly to what we are encountering in the Inland Empire, being the largest warehouse and distribution hub in the nation," Palma said. "We estimate there are 85,000 warehouse workers in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. It's possible that a small percentage of those are good jobs, but based on our experience working with warehouse workers for the past several years, time and time again we see that the majority of these are temporary jobs through staffing agencies, minimum wage jobs, treated like an expendable workforce."
Yes, logistics is a major and growing part of the region's economy and its future, said Inland Empire economist John Husing. No, he said, they're not bad jobs -- far from it.
"The logistics sector, in the first six months of the year, has been responsible for just over 5,000 jobs, which is 30 percent of all the jobs out here," said Husing, who is completing a report on the subject.
"First, it's been going up every year, growing faster as we've gone along. Second, the
sector's median pay level is $42,000, which means there's a good career for people that aren't well-educated -- which is important in our economy because 47 percent stop their education at high school or less."
Palma, based on research by University of Southern California professor of American Studies Juan D. De Lara, said warehouse workers in the logistics sector are among the lowest paid in California, with a median income of $14,500 and 28 percent saying they were employed for less than 27 weeks per year.
"The man doesn't know what he's talking about," Husing said.
Total employment in the logistics sector was 116,300 in 2013, he said, while only 36,000 people worked for an employment agency. Those 36,000 temporary workers are spread across all industries.
Husing said logistics companies are known for promoting from within, meaning it's a path to the middle class for less-educated people and for the region as a whole, he said. Between 1990 and 2012, the Inland Empire logistics sector added 71,900 jobs, he said, driven by shipping related to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and to much-cheaper land than the surrounding counties.
That's a contrast to the city of Industry, where both manufacturing and logistics have plummeted in the past 30 years, said Don Sachs, executive director of the Industry Manufacturers Council.
"Thirty years ago, 80 percent of our business base was manufacturing," Sachs said. "That's all gone. We have 20 percent now. The only we can have the 20 percent is the technology, that maybe from 50 employees you can have 30 do the same amount of work."
Manufacturing has seen an annual increase of 373 employees per year since 1990, but logistics -- warehouses and shipping -- is closely related, Husing said.
Obama made a similar point, saying that a focus on manufacturing jobs should be combined with public investment in infrastructure, according to a transcript of his speech.
"And how quickly and how dependably it gets to the customer depends on do we have good roads, do we have good bridges, do we have state-of-the-art airports," Obama said.
(c)2013 the San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, Calif.)
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