Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Volume 47 - Manufacturing losses - USA today article

Early in March, a friend of mine sent me an article that appeared in USA TODAY titled: Manufacturing losses weigh heavily on Ohio, By David J. Lynch

Having grown up, been educated, lived and worked in Ohio for my entire life this shouldn't have been a total surprise to see an article on such a subject, unless of course you happen to have been the President/CEO of that company during the years of 1996-2001.

"After more than 60 years in business, their employer, Amweld Building Products, announced in October that it was closing two local plants and shipping the work to Monterrey, Mexico. Some workers got the news when armed security guards swarmed the assembly line and ordered them away from their machines."

Pathetic! If anyone believes for one second that these plants, those workers, due to their wage scale had anything to do with moving this plant to Mexico, or that they were such a threat as to have armed guns "swarm" to the factory floor, 'Santa' and the 'Easter Bunny' will continue to live in mystical belief.

The article goes on to say "Ohio's Mahoning Valley once was emblematic of industrial America, thickly populated with auto and steel plants, employing men whose strong backs and high school diplomas were their chief credentials." What does that exactly mean? Every give a thought to that statement; I happen to believe that it is, at best, condescending and at worse an absolute insult. "strong backs and high school diplomas," is that supposed to mean that other parts of this country or the world are more suited for good paying jobs, or is it supposed to mean a handicap of some sort?

The fact of this particular matter is that whether these skilled factory workers, even if they all had college degrees, had nothing to do with this plant closing. The closing of these two Amweld plants had nothing to do with NAFTA. The closing of these plants (and the Johnson Rubber plant) are so far removed from the presidential elections as to be comedic the way the political parties are chasing such a story. The closing of these plants happened because of past and present ownership who caused the downfall of that particular company through greed and absolutely poor decision making processes over the past six years; decisions that adversely effected both the employees and the customer base.

The truth as stated by in the article, "These are not the first comforting election-year promises these men have heard," nor others in the Mahoning Valley during election years, "for experience has taught them to be skeptics." As one of the workers, Craig Plant stated, referring to the politicians, "It's just a smokescreen for we're pretty much not going to do anything." Yet we have candidates making the following statement to "renegotiate NAFTA's terms with Mexico and Canada, add tough labor and environmental requirements to any new accords and re-orient trade policy from the needs of Wall Street's moneyed elite to the protection of hard-hit workers."

I'll again state that the moving of Amweld to Mexico had absolutely nothing to do with anything as reported; and, I take it a stand further, and state that if the other plant closings, mentioned in that article, were investigated the closings would have occurred because of greed, theft, money laundering, poor management, fraudulent accounting practices, inventory fraud, and many other reasons other than what the politicians have stated and puppeted by the media.

The worker's understand why this happened, and when it started down this disastrous trail. As stated, and correctly so, the company "....had outsize ambitions befitting the age of globalization, saying it aimed to become 'the Pepsi-cola of steel doors', the workers say." The company claims that it had been unable to extend existing factory leases; but failed to say that the previously ousted owner, still owns the property. The company then blamed rising costs for energy, health care and workers' compensation for the elimination of jobs, yet from 1996-2001 it was a 'money machine' turning gross profit margins unheard of in the Steel fabrication industry. This idea of plant closings, loss of manufacturing jobs, and all the other 'bullshit' that goes on through politicians and the media is simply 'off base'; the devil is in the detail of such moves, and not in trade agreements, nor wages of other countries, nor in the wage rates of good jobs here in the Mahoning Valley, and certainly not on the backs of those 'high school diploma workers,' who are simply the very best in the industry, and certainly will always have my total respect. It was my privilege to have been the president of that company, because of the men and women that worked the factory floors.

As stated by Bob Ulrich, past Union President, "it's just sad;"but, let us, at least, get to the truth.