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March 2, 2010

Whirlpool Tells Callers: Call Congress. They're Right!

-- by Dave Johnson

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

In the middle of this terrible jobs crisis Whirlpool is closing a factory in the US and sending the jobs to Mexico. Their Mexican workers will be paid $70 a week. As I wrote the other day,

Our system is broken when "the market" encourages companies like Whirlpool to close factories, destroy the lives of American workers, devastate the surrounding communities and ultimately destroy the very economy that the Whirlpools depend on.

No one getting $70 per week is going to buy any refrigerators from Whirlpool. That is the bigger picture here. When American companies close down a factory and lay off workers they are also eliminating customers. Ultimately, as we are seeing, the economy breaks down.


So I received this email today:
One of my coworkers just got off the phone with Whirlpool. She called the number that the AFL or ARAW is providing for folks to complain to the company.

Her call was shuffled around till she ended up talking with someone at HR who identified herself as "Security". The woman at Whirlpool told her "My boss told me to tell you guys to contact congress about it and not call us"

Wow. Can you believe it? I guess Whirlpool wants us to change trade policy so they aren't allowed to close their plant and move it to mexico?!?! Yeah right.
I love how they take NO responsibility for the situation.

Here's the thing: I think Whirlpool is right -- we need to call Congress.

It isn't entirely Whirlpool's fault that "the market" and "the system" is forcing companies like Whirlpool to destroy workers' lives, the surrounding communities and the economy. The system itself is broken and Congress must address the core issues here.

It has become crystal clear that "free markets" don't exist, "free trade" doesn't work, and deregulation doesn't lead to positive results. Because of the failed "free market" and "free trade" and "deregulation" nonsense all we are doing is sending our manufacturing capacity and our jobs out of the country, killing our economy and borrowing more and more to make up for the losses. (And with no national economic/industrial strategy in a world of countries that do have strategies, it just keeps getting worse.)

Things Companies Do These Days

Whirlpool is closing factories, even while receiving millions of dollars from our Federal Government stimulus dollars. And they get government contracts. And when they lay people off our government steps in and provides unemployment, etc. And our local governments also are put on the spot with lost taxes, while providing local services. And, of course, Whirlpool pits states against each other for tax breaks and subsidies just to keep a few jobs, like what they are doing with Indiana vs Iowa. This is called socializing the costs and privatizing the profits.

This is what companies today do. It is just the way the game is played, the way the system works, the way the incentives are structured, the way the ball bounces, the way the cookie crumbles...(someone stop me, please)... There aren't "good" or "bad" companies; ANY company will do these things because if they don't they lose out to the companies that do. BECAUSE WE LET THEM. In fact, by letting this happen we make it happen because, as I just wrote, if one company doesn't the next will, and the company that doesn't loses out. The system.

So here is what we have to do. We have to change the rules to stop these jobs from leaving the country.

We have to write into Federal contracts that companies that get these contracts can't close factories here and move the jobs there.

We have to write into Federal tax breaks that companies receiving the break can't close factories here and move the jobs there.

We have to write into Federal stimulus bills that companies receiving the stimulus money can't close factories here and move the jobs there.

We have to write trade treaties that respect pay and benefits and workers' rights and communities and the environment. We have to set up a tariff structure that respects our own workers' democratically-obtained pay and benefits, and the environmental protections that we fought for.

These are just a few of the things we have to start doing.

Whirlpool asked us to call Congress, not them. This is partly right. Call Congress and demand that they stop companies -- ALL companies -- from closing factories in the US and moving the jobs out of the country. AND keep the pressure on Whirlpool.

I have more coming about this.

Posted by Dave Johnson at March 2, 2010 5:17 PM


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