An excellent new piece from NBC News documents the closure of Wood-Mode, a factory in Kreamer, PA that produced cabinets. Nine hundred workers lost their jobs when it shuttered in May, and the layoffs were sudden and severe:
They came out and told us shut everything off. Turn off the radio. ... ‘As of right now, you’re all laid off indefinitely,’” said Michele Sanders, 41, who had worked at the company for two decades immediately after graduating high school, no college degree required.
“We had about 10 minutes to get our stuff and get out,” said Sanders, a mother of two. Employees drifted out into the parking lot in a daze, under the eye of local law enforcement. “I was in my car with tears flowing out of my eyes. We were all in shock,” she said.
In the aftermath of the job losses, 100 of the workers showed up at a food bank for donated food, and for some of the 900 workers, it was difficult if not impossible to find an equivalent job. A local man bought the factory and has rehired 250 of the workers, but even those who got their jobs back now have to work harder and longer to make the factory viable.
The larger point here, though, is just how many manufacturing jobs have been lost in states that Trump won in 2016. Per NBC:
Out of the 21 states with manufacturing job losses so far this year, some of those with the biggest percentage declines are states where Trump won by less than 5 percentage points. In Pennsylvania, the manufacturing sector lost 8,100 jobs. In North Carolina, it was 7,700, and Wisconsin lost 6,500 jobs.
Arizona and Florida gained jobs, but Michigan also lost, to the tune of 4,700 jobs. With economists declaring that the manufacturing sector is in a recession, this perhaps bodes poorly for a major chunk of Trump’s base, especially when you consider the extent to which trade wars and protectionism have made things more difficult in some industries.
It’s impossible to know at this moment how the people who have been hurt by the ongoing decline of the manufacturing sector will react to their changing fortunes in a political sense, but it’s yet another pronounced hint to Democrats that the economy will be the defining issue of the 2020 election, and nominating somebody who speaks to economic anxieties in a legitimate way will be paramount.