Some stimulus! Some gratitude!
Chrysler moving job to Mexico
by Roger Bybee
The Chrysler Corporation’s survival has been assisted by federal
efforts to provide it with billions in bridge loans and help it
conclude a merger with Fiat.
But Chrysler’s expression of gratitude to its workers and the
taxpayers of America: moving 850 jobs from Kenosha, Wis. to Mexico,
where Chrysler has long had a major presence.
Apparently the survival of the corporation does not mean the survival
of its workers in Kenosha.
In Mexico, Chrysler will have the opportunity to exploit a workforce
denied the right to organize independent unions. Thus,
family-supporting jobs from Kenosha will be transformed into jobs that
typically pay $1 or $2 an hour.
Meanwhile, southeastern Wisconsin will be dealt another devastating
blow in its efforts to recover. More workers will lose buying power,
and Obama’s efforts to stimulate the economy will be, in effect,
Corporate America is moving in a very different direction, undermining
Obama’s stimulus efforts with their own strategy of using this crisis
to out-source as many jobs as possible and make massive cuts in their
workforces. (See page 1, NY Times, 3/7/07) are in a time of national
economic emergency where we need to create and preserve every
family-supporting job possible.)
President Obama has been unceasingly working to breathe life back into
a US economy that was flat-lining after the meltdown brought on by
deregulation of Wall Street and the ensuing orgy of greed, with $18
billion in bonuses shelled out last year.
In this time of national economic crisis, we need to preserve our
productive base. Or we will be forced to increasingly rely on the
financial sector, which provides astronomical wealth for a fortunate
few but has little room for the rest of us.
The loss of hundreds of more Chrysler jobs will deepen the recession
at a time when Kenosha and the region need more buying power, not
Unemployment is particularly dire in southeastern Wisconsin, where it
is approaching Great Depression levels: in Racine, 16.3%; Kenosha,
11.2%; Janesville, 15.3%, and Beloit, 17.7%. The Delphi plant closing
in nearby Oak Creek and the GM shutdown alone account for some 7,600
But these official unemployment figures understate the true level of
joblessness, not taking into account all those who have lost hope and
given up looking for work and all those working-class young men of all
races abandoned by society and sitting in prison.
The current crisis is severe enough without Chrysler adding to it.
Unemployment literally causes casualties. Every 1% increase in the
national unemployment rate is associated with 47,000 deaths, half of
them heart-related, and 831 additional murders, according to Prof.
Peter Dreier of Occidental College.
The human toll of unemployment in southeastern Wisconsin is visible in
many forms: the over-filled homeless shelters, the tripling of
foreclosures in Rock County since 2000, the vast waiting lists for
health care (while Congressman Paul Ryan opposes every version of
healthcare reform that would actually assist anyone), and family
violence increases from the stress of unpaid bills and no future.
Janesville has seen a near-tripling of its need for shelter for
battered women and children over last year. Even before the current
downturn, child poverty in Kenosha doubled 2000 to 2005.
This latest step by Chrysler to Mexico, if they are permitted to pull
it off, will immensely deepen the human suffering. (We should
remembers that the loss of 5,500 assembly jobs in 1988 at Chrysler was
due to a three-cornered move by Chrysler, where it shifted jobs from
Detroit to Mexico, and then moved Kenosha jobs to Detroit.
As we consider the situation, we should keep four elements in mind:
1) WE HAVE A MORAL CLAIM ON CHRYSLER: the use of taxpayer dollars to
accomplish a shift of jobs to Mexico is an improper use of the
billions in loans our government has extended to them in good faith.
Chrysler should be using all of its resources to retain and generate
family-supporting jobs in the US, thereby aiding the nation’s economic
2) CONTACT WHITE HOUSE AS WELL AS CHRYSLER: When you send messages to
Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli, you also should send one to the White
The direction that the Obama-appointed Automotive Task Force has taken
departs sharply from OBama’s stated goals of keeping jobs in America
and building up consumer demand. The Task Force rejected GM’s Feb. 17
plan because it did not go far enough. The Task Force wants GM to
slash thousands more jobs, close more plants, place retiree benefits
in a riskier position, and rely more heavily on cars produced in
Mexico, Japan and South Korea for the US market.
Given that the Task Force seems to have anything but a pro-worker
orientation, President Obama needs to hear about the outrageous
relocation of Kenosha jobs to Mexico.
3) FIGHTING BACK PAYS OFF: In 1988, when many people thought the
forces of corporate globalization were all-powerful and that us puny
mortals must bow down before the likes of Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca,
UAW Local 72 waged a 10-month battle to stop the loss of 5,500 jobs.
The union didn’t ultimately prevail, thanks in good measure to
back-room deals cut by Gov. Tommy Thompson, Congressman Les Aspin, and
Kenosha’s local elected officials. But Local 72 did succeed in winning
the best plant-closing agreement attained up to that point, and helped
to secure the remaining engine jobs.
Another problem the union faced at that time was the lack of support
from college-educated employees across the area. They simply didn’t
understand the stake that they had in preserving all those
family-supporting jobs which paid the taxes supporting teachers and
other public employees and bought the goods and services that kept
Kenosha a middle class coomunity.
This time around, white-collar workers know that they can be replaces
just as easily as UAW members, as corporations increasingly rely on
"off-shoring," getting cheap professional labor in India, China, and
elsewhere. In 2009, the entire community can see that a corporation
that owes its continued existence to taxpayers here and across the
country is arrogantly forgetting that it owes any obligation to
workers and communities.
The workers at Republic Doors and Windows in Chicago were confronted
with an employer scheming to close the plant and secretly them to
relocate to a non-union plant in Iowa. The also faced the refusal of
the bailout-rich Bank of America refusing to release the vacation and
severance pay owed the workers.
So the members of United Electrical workers Local 1110 occupied the plant for six days, showing that a
determined union with broad community support can win out against the
We have the power to turn Chrysler around on jobs going to Mexico, if
realize that our actions truly make a difference.
Roger Bybee edited The Racine Labor 1979 to 1993, and testified before
Congress about the impact of the Chrysler closing. His grandfather worked on the Kenoshas assemblyline for 33 years. Articles on the earlier Chrysler closing and other issues are available on his website, listed below.