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The cost of a “cheap” Alabama worker

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

Your wife looks cheap.

You drive a cheap car.

He was wearing a cheap suit.

Insults, right?

That’s usually the case when you refer to something or someone as “cheap.” You don’t mean it as a compliment.

Here’s one more people shouldn’t be taking as a compliment: Cheap Alabama labor.

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For some reason, it has become acceptable practice in this State for politicians and State leaders to speak of Alabama’s “cheap labor” as if it is a good thing for that labor.

It’s not.

It’s an incredible insult, and it should be even more appalling that they have the gall to say it out loud.

Because they do. Our State lawmakers use that “cheap Alabama labor” phrase all the time when discussing their efforts to attract jobs to this state.

They can use incentives and cheap labor to convince companies to relocate here, they say.

Which essentially means that they’ve sold you out twice – once by using your tax dollars as corporate welfare for billion-dollar companies and again by selling you off, sans rights and protections, like a bunch of modern-day slaves, to people who will underpay you and provide you crap-benefits as you churn out the products that fattens their bottom lines.

It’s a sucker’s game.

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And you’re the sucker.

Hell, they’ve even got the blue-collar workers out there advocating for this nonsense – busting and fighting unions, because you’re apparently against profit-sharing and not eating cat food to survive in your old age, and making excuses for forking over millions in incentives while short-changing the public schools that could save us all.

All because we are the absolute worst at longterm planning.

That’s primarily because we’ve been governed by conservatives for our entire existence, and conservatives are apparently unable to envision the longterm benefits or longterm problems with anything that might achieve some immediate positive outcome, or at least a positive outcome in their minds.

Seriously, pick something.

Schools: Alabama conservatives introduced the Accountability Act, which allows kids with means to transfer from a “failing” school to a better one, while leaving behind thousands of kids in that “failing” school and removing a considerable amount of funding and resources from it.

Any fool could see that leaving kids who are already too poor to afford transportation to another school in an even worse school will have awful effects, but Alabama conservatives are not just any fool.

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Want another?

Health care: No expansion of Medicaid in this State, because it would be unaffordable, even though it was free, and because it might increase the Welfare state in this Welfare State. Of course, any fool could see that failing to expand Medicaid would create a coverage gap that would lead to some quitting jobs in order to meet Alabama’s tiny Medicaid coverage threshold and increase the rate of non-payers for medical service, driving doctors and hospitals out of business.

But Alabama’s conservatives couldn’t see it. And so, here we sit with a State Healthcare system that barely makes third-world countries envious and that drives away quality workers, companies, teachers and entrepreneurs.

So, foresight ain’t exactly our cup of sweet tea here.

Still, though, the amazing lack of foresight when it comes to our workers is astonishing, particularly among those workers.

A large swath of these people, including the workers, voted for Donald Trump – a man who’s never actually worked a day in his life – because he promised something completely stupid: to bring back coal jobs.

But while that’s certainly as stupid as a promise to bring back horse carriage jobs, it’s not surprising that so many people in Alabama bought it.

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Because for years now, our politicians have been campaigning on the ignorant idea that “Obama’s EPA” was waging a “war on coal,” which was always dumb. Because it ignored several realities – we know that burning coal isn’t great for the environments, low natural gas prices were the real killers of coal and green jobs were booming.

But see, it’s easier to do what you’ve always done. So, it’s easier to tell a coal miner that you’re going to save his job than it is to do the right thing and tell that miner you’re going to implement an education and training mechanism that better prepares him and his fellow miners for a career in another industry.

And those same politicians are cutting regs, trying desperately to help their coal baron campaign contributors lower production costs. Meaning that all of us will deal with a dirtier environment and those miners are dealing with job losses and a bleak future.

But hey, being jobless, hopeless and completely unprepared for a changing jobs market does make those workers, like most in Alabama, very cheap.


Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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