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Pay Plunges 42 Percent for State’s Auto Parts Workers

Welding machines churn up sparks on an assembly line.

Welding machines churn up sparks on an assembly line.

Alabama attracted more than $7 billion in capital investment in 2015, along with nearly 20,000 new and future jobs, according to the Alabama Department of Commerce. While many states can’t touch that, summer has brought signs of growing discontent.

Take auto parts workers, who account for three of every four auto worker jobs. The number of auto parts jobs in Alabama has increased 64 percent since 2001, according to a National Employment Law Project study by Catherine Ruckelshaus and Sarah Leberstein. But paychecks have been dropping, in part because such companies have gone to staffing agencies and contract workers.

“From 2001 to 2013, real (inflation-adjusted) monthly earnings for Alabama auto parts workers have declined by 42 percent — more than any other major auto-producing state. Nationally, the decline is 14 percent. The average Alabama auto parts worker took home $1,593 less in 2013 than he or she did in 2001,” according to the report.

The report went on to note that new hires, something the industry relies on heavily in Alabama, are bringing home about $600 less per month than the typical auto parts worker in the state — 17 percent below the statewide average. 

Then there was a guest editorial in DothanFirst.com by Alabama House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, who has called for the impeachment of Gov. Robert Bentley and doesn’t buy the claims of Alabama’s job successes.

Chief Executive magazine ranks Alabama 17th on taxes and regulation, Ford notes, but ends up 33rd in workforce quality and 33rd in living environment. “Those numbers show the impact of our leaders’ philosophy that values corporate tax breaks over investments in education, health care and infrastructure,” he writes.

Unemployment and economic numbers aren’t that rosy, he adds. Alabama has one of the five highest unemployment rates in the country, at 5.9 percent, and the economy is growing at only 0.7 percent.

“Alabama has the fourth lowest median household income in the country, at $42,830 compared to the national average of $53,657. And nearly one in five people in Alabama currently lives in poverty,” Ford writes.

As for current plans? “I’ve never heard of a company choosing to come to a state because of the quality of their prisons.”

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