Where have all the textile jobs gone?

This letter is about [a job] I had one summer in a woolen mill. I’m pretty sure the job didn’t go overseas. Nobody is doing it anymore, even as cheap labor. It was low-skill work, night shift.

The reason for writing about it is to make clear that the job is really, really gone, and not overseas either. A fairly intelligent chimp could have done the work; the process was obsolete, traces of it are still visible in the mill section downstairs in the Greenwood Gallery. When the equipment in the Northeast gallery finally wore out, and in most cases the buildings too, industry moguls claimed they had decided to move south to get away from the unions. We can still find traces of those previous employees here — Cranston Printworks and Coates Thread [are] a couple of examples.

Let’s be grownup about all this and admit that when they got to the South, the industry that later moved to the Pacific, Congress was busy giving nice tax breaks for creating jobs overseas in certain poor countries. We are supposed to believe that it started with unions? No. Worn out equipment, more likely. Tax breaks? Very, very likely. And tax exemptions for the cost of moving.

If I were making the decisions at the time, it would have been cheaper to scrap the machinery, start over with new, high-speed equipment sometimes run by computers, built in Europe, and move to the Pacific countries to crank out textiles at lightning speed.

— Allen Thomas
Asheville

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