As Trumka put it, manufacturing jobs -- steel jobs, auto industry jobs, etc. -- were not always "good" jobs. Collective bargaining made them good. In the 1920s and 1930s, the position of factory workers was analogous to that of service workers today.
Poo added that service jobs and "care" jobs are where the growth is The demographic shift toward the elderly is as important as shifts in the country's ethnic makeup (and, she might have added, or may have implicitly, growing numbers of relatively young nonwhites are making their living caring for elderly whites. The status and dignity of those jobs needs to be raised.
Richard Florida does a nice job putting these points in context. Here's one iteration from a July 2010 op-ed:
The problem is that on average, service workers earn only half of what factory workers make – and only a third of what professional, technical and knowledge workers are paid. The key is to upgrade these jobs and turn them into adequate replacements for the higher-paying blue-collar jobs that have been destroyed.
If service workers are to be well paid, the country has to keep generating wealth by selling goods and services abroad. Seems like we don't have a problem with that; the problem is that our successful companies don't generate as many jobs at home as they used to, and their profits flow mainly to the top. Can that wealth be shared without killing the golden geese? That is, can the wealth generated by American companies be better distributed to benefit not only their own workers, but the growing number of service workers we all seem to require?It has happened before. Yet the blue-collar jobs we pine for were not always good jobs: we made them good jobs. When my father came back from the second world war, his poorly paid factory job had been transformed. He was able to buy a house, put his two sons through college and participate fully in the American dream. Some of this was due to the power of unions. Most of it was because of the enormous improvements in productivity wrought by improved technologies and management techniques.