The fate of U.S. manufacturing is a women’s issue, too

January 16, 2020, 12:29 PM UTC
A worker from United Auto Workers Local 440 holds a picket outside the General Motors Bedford Powertrain factory.
A worker from United Auto Workers Local 440 holds a picket outside the General Motors Bedford Powertrain factory.
Jeremy Hogan—Getty Images

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Three congresswomen are among the impeachment prosecutors, Sen. Elizabeth Warren writes for Fortune about her plan to make technology accessible to people with disabilities, and we meet China’s Queen of Trash. Have a terrific Thursday. 

– A tale of two factories. The Internet is awash in political headlines this morning (read on for that!), but I hope you’ll allow me some brief counter programming about China’s “Queen of Trash.”

The New York Times has a fascinating read on Zhang Yin, whose company, Nine Dragons Paper, makes corrugated board using recycled fiber—a $35 billion business that’s made her one of the richest people in China.

The Times tells the story of Zhang’s decision to buy a defunct paper mill in Old Town, Maine, and how that purchase has reverberated through the small community. It’s one of those tales that manages to braid together some of the most important macro-economic and political issues of our times (globalization, U.S.-China relations, the struggles of American manufacturing) with the micro—the daily lives of the people who make up this 7,500-person town. It’s worth a read.

One reason the story caught my eye is that I just this week watched American Factory, the freshly Oscar-nominated documentary produced by the Obamas (I’m late, I know!). The film chronicles a former GM factory in Ohio—shuttered in 2008—that is bought and reopened by Fuyao, a Chinese glassmaking company. It’s compelling piece of filmmaking, clear-eyed and unwilling to offer easy answers.

The Times story and the documentary have a lot in common: culture clash, displacement of unions, mutual suspicion. But they also suggest that there’s no single way such stories must play out—I finished American Factory with a sense of dread, while the NYT piece offers a whiff of hope.

The state of American manufacturing is not a “women’s issue,” per se, but women work in these mills and factories, live in the towns they support, and occasionally, as in the case of Zhang, run them. Their future is something that will affect us all.

Kristen Bellstrom

Today’s Broadsheet was produced by Emma Hinchliffe


- Pelosi's prosecutors. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chose the impeachment managers for President Trump's Senate trial. When President Bill Clinton was impeached, the prosecutors were all white men. This time, the group includes Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D–Calif.), Rep. Val Demings (D–Fla.), and Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D–Texas). Lofgren is an impeachment veteran; she was a member of the House Judiciary Committee in 1998 and helped the committee draft Watergate charges when she was a law student. Demings is in her second term in Congress and drew attention for her effective questioning of Robert Mueller in July; before that, she was the first female chief of Orlando's police force. Garcia is in her first term, one of the first two Latinas Texas sent to Congress in 2018.

- Words from Warren. Sen. Elizabeth Warren writes for Fortune about her plan to make technology work for people with disabilities. Companies that receive government funding will have to make sure their technologies are accessible. "When I am president, the disability community will have a partner in the White House to combat ableism," she writes. Read more of Warren's piece here: Fortune

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- ERA, at last! Virginia's General Assembly approved amendments to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment yesterday—meaning Virginia will soon be the long-awaited 38th state to ratify the ERA. Next to watch: Congress's efforts to extend the expired ratification deadline. CNN

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- Houston enters the Hall of Fame. It's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame season, and Whitney Houston is the only woman out of six performers in the 2020 class of inductees. Two other women were part of the group of candidates, but Pat Benatar and Rufus featuring Chaka Khan didn't make the cut. The posthumous honor for Houston comes after Janet Jackson urged the Hall of Fame to induct more women in a speech last year. New York Times

- Loud and proud. Is it ever too early to share the news of your pregnancy (if that's what you want)? Betsy Cooper, director of the Aspen Institute’s Tech Policy Hub, writes for the New York Times about finding out only days ago that she's about six weeks pregnant and "telling the world," despite the usual reasons for staying private, like fear of miscarriage or career retaliation. "I am declaring myself pregnant, in hopes of making other women who feel as I do comfortable going public early as well," she writes. New York Times

- Best cities for black women. What cities are the most livable for black women? This fascinating research ranks metro areas based on inequities for black women in income status, health conditions, and education. Washington, D.C., Boston, Baltimore, and Raleigh are at the top of the list, with mainly Midwestern cities coming in at the bottom. CityLab


Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick is taking time off to treat alcoholism CNBC

Zora Neale Hurston protected black stories Zora

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Hustlers is about women who don’t need men. No wonder the Oscars snubbed it Washington Post


"I’m not particularly interested in taking a male character and having a woman play it. I think women are far more interesting than that."

-James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli on why there will never be a female Bond

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