Even as the Occupy Wall Street protests pick up steam, the gutting of America's manufacturing base and the offshoring of good paying jobs continues unabated. Whirpool is the latest company to join the party:
Whirlpool Corp. announced Thursday it will close its refrigerator plant, long the most important employer in Fort Smith, next year, putting 1,000 people out of work.Okay, a decline in sales is a legitimate reason for reducing production. But hey, wait. What's this?
The company issued a statement blaming the closure on a decrease in demand for side-by-side refrigerators and price pressure from competitors.
The factory employed 4,600 people five years ago, but that number has declined in the poor economy and since Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool opened a refrigerator factory in Mexico.And so the beat goes on...and on...and on...and on. These soon-to-be unemployed factory workers need to Occupy Fort Smith. It won't get them their jobs back, but at least it might help wake a few people up.
A number of Fort Smith-area companies that supplied the Whirlpool plant have already scaled back production or closed. Manufacturing jobs in Fort Smith dropped from 23,322 in 2000 to 14,736 in 2009, a decline of 36.8 percent, according to a study by the Institute for Economic Advancement at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Addendum: I initially wrote this post before I saw this update from a separate article:
Whirlpool(WHR) significantly reduced its outlook for 2011 earnings and said it would cut 5,000 jobs to trim costs and expand its operating margins.And, of course, there was the usual inane blather from Whirlpool's CEO:
"We are taking necessary actions to address a much more challenging global economic environment," said Jeff Fettig, Whirlpool chairman and CEO, in a statement Friday. "We believe our cost and capacity reduction initiatives, recently announced cost-based price increases and innovative product launches will enable us to expand operating margins and deliver long-term value to shareholders.""Better living through layoffs and closings." It's enough to make you want to tear your hair out.