Rally at Whirlpool
On February 26, 2010, union members, concerned citizens, and community activists from across the region voiced the outrage at Whirlpool for sending 1,100 good paying jobs to Mexico. Whirlpool is a profitable company that recently received $19.2 million in tax payer funded stimulus money.
Members from IBEW 725, the Wabash Valley Central Labor Council, the White River Central Labor Council, South Central Indiana Jobs With Justice, the Building Trades, and local unions participated. Thank you to all of our members who found time to stand together with fellow members and workers in their time of need!
I was proud to join more than 5,500 workers, labor leaders and community and religious activists from at least six states in front of the Whirlpool plant in Evansville, Ind., this past Friday to deliver 70,000 petitions to Whirlpool management to Keep It Made in America. Watch the rally video.
Members of IUE-CWA, many of whose jobs are at stake, led the way as a group of us, including children and grandchildren of workers, clergy and retirees, used a Whirlpool refrigerator to wheel petitions to the plant’s locked front gate.
But no one was there to answer our knocks and accept your petitions. Instead of coming out to meet workers and their family and community members whose livelihoods are at stake, management hid behind locked doors and a huge corporate logo.
Keep the Calls
Last Friday, thousands of you called Whirlpool Corp. headquarters asking them to Keep It Made in America and Save Our Jobs.
More than 1,100 jobs, most of them held by IUE-CWA members, are at stake. Keep the pressure on. Give Whirlpool a call toll free today: 800-705-7083.
We have had small rallies before and Whirlpool ignored us! They will not ignore us today! This is just the beginning of something big.
We must continue to make noise, fight for what’s right and make it clear that it is not OK for America’s workers to be reduced to stocking shelves down at Wal-Mart with stuff made in Mexico and China. We don’t have to accept second-class status for America. We can lead the world economy again if the leaders we elect step up and insist that we invest in America again.
This fight is about millions of individual lives that are impacted by the decisions of faceless corporations. We often talk about workers losing their jobs as statistics, but each worker has a story and their stories are individual tragedies, not statistics. Natalie Ford, a member of Local 808 whose job is at stake, put her story in words:
This doesn’t just affect us, it affects everyone in our families....This is the only life we’ve known—now it’s gone. The questions run through my mind: Am I going to lose everything I’ve worked my entire life for? I try to be strong for my family, but deep down I’m scared to death, not knowing what the future holds for us. —Natalie Ford, member, IUE-CWA Local 808
We must remember who we are fighting for and why we are doing this. Working together we can save millions of jobs, rebuild our economy and change the lives of people like Natalie Foster. Click here to read more of Natalie’s story and other workers’ stories like hers.
The fight in Evansville for Natalie and her fellow workers is a microcosm for what is happening across the country, and as Seth Rosen, Communications Workers of America (CWA) vice president, said, unions and their so-called “legacy costs” aren’t the problem, they are what built cities like Evansville all across America:
Some people blame us for what they call “legacy costs”: union wages, health care, pension for retirees. There is a legacy from those things. You know what that legacy is? Every firehouse in Evansville, Ind., is a legacy of the tax dollars of union workers making a middle-class wage. Every schoolhouse is a legacy of the people who work in this plant. —Seth Rosen, CWA vice president
To make sure Whirlpool heard us loud and clear, the Machinists, coordinating with the Michigan State AFL-CIO, delivered more than 40,000 petitions to Whirlpool headquarters in Michigan and online activists like you made more than 1,700 phone calls to Whirlpool headquarters. Speaking of calls, could you give Whirlpool a call again and tell them to Keep It Made in America?
You can call them toll free: 800-705-7083.
Only working together can we take our country back and make sure that everyone has a good job. IUE-CWA President Jim Clark talked about the commitment his members made, some of whom came to Evansville all the way from Louisville, Ky.:
We’ve had some bad weather, and in this weather here for union people to come from all the different states on a Friday evening, that means they’re ready to fight and they’re ready to fight for you.
P.S. The fight for jobs at Whirlpool is a part of our nationwide jobs campaign. We will be rolling out actions across the country in the coming weeks and I look forward to your support and leadership. In Washington, we are calling on Congress and the Obama administration to take five steps now to care for jobless workers and put America back to work, and by organizing and fighting we will make them listen.
Be sure to check out our online organizing hub for our Good Jobs Now campaign
The IUE-CWA Local 808 has requested President Trumka’s participation in a rally outside the Whirlpool plant in Evansville, Indiana. The plant is closing and production is being moved to Mexico.
- On August 28, 2009 Whirlpool announced the closure of its Evansville, Indiana refrigerator plant. The layoffs begin in March 2010 and will be completed by this summer. There are 900 union production workers and 200-300 salaried employees.
· Evansville has produced refrigerators since 1956. Approximately 800 production workers make top-mount refrigerators and another 80 make icemakers. The refrigerator production will go to Whirlpool’s Monterrey, Mexico, plant and the icemakers to Amana, Iowa (IAM facility). The company will invest $110 million in the closure of Evansville and expansion in Mexico. Approximately half that total, $55million, will be used to build a new plant in Whirlpool’s existing Monterrey manufacturing complex, which has been in operation since 1996 and employs 8,000 workers. The addition of the Evansville production will add a new building and another 1,100 workers to the Mexico plant.
· Whirlpool announced it made 10% cuts in domestic capacity last year (WSJ 02/4/10) with more to come in 2010. The IUE-CWA negotiated a lower tier rate in February 2009, has worked on lean manufacturing programs for years, and has offered additional concessions. The company told them decision is final regardless of further revisions. The first layoff of 500 will occur in March with the final expected by the end of June or later in the summer.
· Following a Bush Justice Department approvedacquisition of Maytag in 2006 Whirlpool became the largest home appliance maker in the world. Their market share in various laundry components runs 71, 75 and 80 percent. They have more than 70,000 employees worldwide, more than 70 manufacturing and technology centers and approximately $20 billion in annual sales.
· While Whirlpool is busy moving to Mexico, just 100 miles up the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky, GE issued a December 2009 announcement that it was investing in and creating 430 new production and engineering jobs. This was in addition to two other recent announcements that brought their total investments to $150 million resulting in 3 new product lines and 830 new jobs. They will be making high end Energy Star standard washers, dryers and water heaters while Whirlpool abandons green jobs in Evansville.
· The Recovery Act provided funds for consumer rebates on purchases of energy efficient (Energy Star) appliances like the refrigerators made in Evansville. The state of Indiana received $6 million to help fund these consumer rebates. Now they will reward consumers for purchasing refrigerators made in Mexico. These consumer rebate programs do not distinguish between domestic and foreign appliances.
· On October 30, 2009 Whirlpool was awarded a $19.3 million matching grant from the Department of Energy (stimulus finds) for research and development of commercial technology for energy-efficient washers and dryers that can be linked to a smart grid. There is no requirement that this technology be made in the United States.
Whirlpool is closing a plant that produces energy-efficient refrigerators that consumers want and the nation needs. It is investing $55 million in Mexico while it disinvests in Evansville, Indiana. It doesn't have to be this way.
· It is time for a national manufacturing strategy that will retain and create the good jobs that are the foundation of the working middle class. We must stop rewarding corporations for abandoning communities and workers. We must have policies that encourage domestic manufacturing. We must link our goals for infrastructure, energy and employment with our investment and tax policies.
· We want a cleaner planet and good jobs. Our energy and employment policies must support one another. Tax benefits for energy efficient appliances (Energy Star program) should be used to encourage domestic manufacturing of those appliances. American tax benefits should not be used to reward foreign production. Grants for R&D should require that they result in American jobs making those products
· Put an end to financial incentives that support offshoring. Change our tax laws accounting rules so that companies cannot get write offs for closing plants and borrowing money to open facilities in other nations. Manufacturers should not be able to keep offshore profits deferred from taxation that other domestic manufacturers must pay.
· Trade agreements must work for all workers and communities. Trade agreements must have strong worker and environmental protections. NAFTA has failed American, Mexican, and Canadian workers alike. The Mexican government is engaged in open warfare with its free trade unions, the Electric Workers. It must stop. It is time to change the terms of this agreement.
· We must look to the future and invest in manufacturing. Tax policies must be changed to support domestic investment and innovation in manufacturing. If there is better technology elsewhere in the world for batteries, mass transit, or energy efficiency then leverage our public investments and tax policies to buy it, get it made here and be the innovation leaders.