During last year’s presidential campaign, both McCain and Obama endlessly broadcast ads that promised “good middle class jobs.” And whenever an ad intoned that phrase, up popped an image like the one below, which comes from an Obama campaign stop: burly, 50-something (mostly white) guys wearing dirty uniforms.
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What drove me crazy about these ads is that this isn’t what “good middle class jobs” look like in this country — and hasn’t been for about 30 years. For the latest confirmation, check out this report on union membership issued by the Center for Economic Policy Research and summarized in the NY Times:

“Just one in 10 union members is in manufacturing, while women account for more than 45 percent of the unionized workforce.”

In other words, today 90 percent of people in labor unions (!) don’t work in manufacturing. And nearly half of all union members aren’t men.

Which leaves me wondering: In the 2010 election season, do you think politicians will change their iconography to reflect the realities of the 21st century workforce? Or do you think they’ll hold out the false, empty, (and for most people, unappealing) promise that we all can return to 1950s Pittsburgh?

6 Responses to “Factoid (and peeve) of the day”

  1. Jeff Gaus says:

    What is even more befuddling about these ads, and the posture of the campaigns, is thinking that the future of “good, middle-class jobs” is in UNION jobs. Union ranks account for only 12.4% of the US labor force (US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics), and this figure has declined from 20.1% in 1983.

    The explosive growth of the US economy over the last 25 years has been in the non-unionized sectors of the economy. This is where the politicians should be focusing on developing job growth; unless of course, they are seeking large-block campaign contributions. Let’s call this for what it is — pandering to the donors.

  2. Dan Pink Dan Pink says:

    @jeff – not sure the ads are pandering to unions necessarily. but i do think that both political parties are misplaced. the repubs pander to big business; the dems pander to big unions. but today fewer than 1 in 10 americans works for a fortune 500 company. and only about 7 or 8% of the private sector workforce belongs to a labor union. they’re both fighting the last war — in the name of campaign cash.

  3. Jeff Gaus says:

    Agreed. I think the whole lot of them should be thrown out. I am just looking for a party affiliation that represent ME and MY intersts that is not led by some nut-job…..alas….

  4. Here in Canada we have 5 major parties and people still don’t feel like they are represented. None of the political party leaders are avid gamers, none of them are huge advocates of improv and stand-up comedy, snowboard regularly, OR quote the Simpsons in their speeches… Perhaps the problem with voter apathy is voters have been treated like consumers for so long (and pandered to) by the media that we shop for politics like we do for sneakers.

    There isn’t a political “brand” for everyone, and the best way to get a candidate you like or that represents you and your interests is to make your particular demographic matter. And the only way it matters if if it votes… and votes in droves!

  5. Mary Adams says:

    I think they use the industrial era photos because that was the last time that there was a clear system to produce middle class jobs. Today’s “jobless recovery,” is a symptom of the fact that no one really yet knows how to convert the promise of the knowledge era into a sustainable economy where the middle class will benefit. Until then, the image of the men in dirty uniforms will speaker louder than any other.

  6. Erin says:

    Maybe they are using those images because those are the people they are trying to appeal to. Obama wanted to try to attract the viewers who were least predisposed to vote for him to identify with his ad.

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