Black manufacturing workers suffer the effects of industrial flight more profoundly than their White counterparts, a report finds.
The report, conducted by the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), states that deindustrialization in cities like St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland, Flint and Baltimore—cities that were once industrial powerhouses—over the last four decades has disproportionately negatively impacted African Americans.
Carter Carburetor Corporation in St. Louis is over a block long and three stories high. It closed in the 1990s. (Photo courtesy of builtstlouis.net)
In addition to the direct and indirect job loss caused by these factories closing and moving operations overseas, lack of personal finances combined with housing discrimination left Black families unable to simply move away like White families could. White flight heavily contributed to the segregation of these cities, and the blacks left behind in those deindustrialized communities faced some of the nation’s highest violent crime rates.
The post-World War II manufacturing boom gave African Americans in cities like St. Louis the economic independence necessary to build up black communities. At its peak, St. Louis was second only to Detroit in auto assembly with General Motors, Ford and Chrysler plants in the area. In the 1980s, however, the city began to see industrial flight, the effects of which were not felt until the turn of the century.
When the Corvette plant moved to Kentucky in June 1981, many of the plant’s workers chose to move with it. At the time, legislators brushed off the loss of 1,000 workers at that assembly plant because the city was a manufacturing powerhouse, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. However, the loss of the Corvette plant marked the beginning of a turn in the economy.
St. Louis felt the loss of more auto manufacturers in the 21st century. In 2006, the closing of the Ford assembly plant led to a layoff of 1,445 employees. The closing of the two Chrysler plants in Fenton, Mo. in 2008 and 2009 led to a loss of over 43,000 direct and indirect jobs and a $15 billion impact on the area, according to a study by engineering firm AECOM.
According to the Missouri Department of Economic Development, manufacturing jobs declined by 9,800 jobs from March 2008 to March 2009. Since the Great Recession, St. Louis had struggled to bounce back, but this year the city has seen job growth surpassing job numbers pre-recession, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Jobs in manufacturing, however, have not recovered from the recession.
As the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) states, The Ville and Greater Ville neighborhoods, which were once the center for the city’s black middle class, was largely supported by the manufacturing jobs in St. Louis. Today, the neighborhoods are met with high violent crime and unemployment rates; the household income averages in the low to mid $20,000s. The population dropped 26 percent between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Alderman Sam Moore said last year there were 1,242 vacant buildings, 1,700 vacant lots and five empty schools in the neighborhood. While the conditions vary from block to block, there are many dilapidated buildings, some with the back walls missing are referred to as “doll houses.”
While the manufacturing industry and the effects of deindustrialization look somewhat bleak in St. Louis, the area has been looking to the future. It has seen employment gains in education, health care and plant and medical research largely supported by the Monsanto Company.