The apparent demise of New Process Gear, on the heels of the closing of Syracuse China, means that every company my parents or grandparents ever worked at has now closed or left the area.
While I was sad/outraged about what happened with Syracuse China, my feelings about NPG are rather different. There was never a time when workers weren’t getting screwed over at NPG or when the union wasn’t a mess — at least, not in my lifetime — and my father left over 25 years ago when he saw the writing on the wall, about how there would come to be different tiers of workers with unequal protections/opportunities because of spineless union leadership, how the auto industry would continue to lumber like a dinosaur and how eventually the Local 624 workers would have to keep groveling until they could grovel no more. Evidently that point was reached the other day.
People by and large work very hard at NPG under dangerous conditions. I think a lot of the people who think it is all “push button” work wouldn’t last there a day. The whole American middle class was built on jobs like these. And whatever the problems that unions have, it’s astonishing how “kids today” just don’t understand that the failure of unions (for whatever reason, they are many) is a failure for anyone who works for a living in any sort of job. Because tomorrow’s kids and grandkids are going to have to learn these lessons and do the hard work of organizing (that was done in the ’30s and earlier) all over again. Especially the ones with college degrees.
For me, this is (apparently) the end of a big chunk of my family’s history (yes, it still lingers on after 25 years) that certainly shaped my own views from childhood on. Now, a lot of Syracuse area folks may now be just starting to cover the ground my family covered back during “Morning in America” times. No, it wasn’t easy… and it’s never over. As for what’s next for these workers? My dad went on to be an electrician. Other NPG workers will find trades and jobs, others won’t, some will leave the area, and some will stay on and add to the changing political consciousness of the Syracuse region. The table has been cleared and, after some adjustment, there is even more opportunity to think anew. I don’t envy the out-of-work NPG folks, but the majority of them had the presence of mind to clear the table themselves in the end, because it was only going to end the same way it ended with Carrier. Good luck to them. Good luck to us.