An excellent story in the New York Times this weekend took a sobering look at the economic prospects of Millinocket, Maine, home to the remnants of the Great Northern Paper Mill. The mill, which predated the town, closed in 2008:
The decline of Great Northern decimated the area’s economy, making it an extreme example of once-prosperous Maine manufacturing communities that have been hollowed out as their mills have closed or shed jobs. Public officials here are anxiously awaiting late back-tax payments on the mill, while residents confront the vexing question of what their town can be without the mill that built it.
Millinocket’s is a sad and sobering story. But the forces that gathered to offshore American manufacturing didn’t come together in a vacuum; and, try as some might, the massive amount of manufacturing job loss can’t be explained away entirely by the rise of automation and productivity increases. Realities like currency manipulation, non-market economies, and massive government subsidies exist. $33.1 billion worth of harmful trade practices exist.
Millinocket is what happens when a factory town dries up. But there are thousands of other American towns out there whose citizens live with the constant pressure of job insecurity … and it’s generated not by increased global competition, but from unfair trade. So we went back into the AAM vault, back to 2010, when American papermakers brought a trade case alleging unfair dumping of paper products into the U.S. market, to find this video of millworkers describing what their mill and their jobs means to them:
Read the New York Times article here.