Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Another Globalization Blow to My Home Town

image: The Lincoln Mall in Freeport, Illinois. Built the year I was born, the mall was anchored by Sears and JC Penney when I was growing up and along with the downtown business district was the city's prime shopping destination. Like Freeport's downtown, it is now virtually abandoned.

Back on August 12th of last year in my post, "Friday Rant: A Half-Century at the Local Tire Factory in a Globalizing World", I wrote about the history of the factory in my hometown where my father spent his entire career as a middle manager. The factory in question is currently operating at about one-fourth the capacity it was when my father retired, and just recently ownership locked out the workers to win more wage concessions from the union.

Well, the hits just keep on coming for my hometown of Freeport, Illinois, as reported this week by the Freeport Journal Standard:
As the plan to phase out roughly 170 jobs at the Sensata Technologies/Honeywell plant in Freeport continues to move ahead, local workforce officials are meeting with affected staff in an effort to keep them employed in this region.

“We want to make the transition for them as quick and pain-free as possible,” said Stephenson County Board Chairman John Blum, who is a member of the Local Workforce Investment Board (LWIB). “It’s definitely upsetting a lot of lives.”

In early 2011, Sensata announced it would be closing its local plant at the end of 2012, and relocating the jobs there to a plant in China. Normal operations will continue at the Freeport plant until then, but roughly 170 jobs are being phased out gradually.

About 25 employees at the plant are expected to be laid off over the next six weeks. However, many of these employees have chosen to extend their employment at the local plant by moving to another production line there. Still, all the plant employees will be let go by late 2012, at which time the facility will be decommissioned.
I really have one question for the American management officials who make decisions like this. How the fuck do you sleep at night? Seriously, I really want to know. Has corporate America been completely taken over by psychopaths at this point?

Freeport is a small city of around 25,000 mostly blue collar souls who were already struggling from the loss of much of the town's manufacturing base. This action is going to be a real kick in the nuts for the city.

Sadly, this was all predicted back in 1994 by the late James Goldsmith, who ironically was the financier whose attempted buyout of the Goodyear corporation in 1986 caused my father to be laid off for about six months. His subsequent appearance on the Charlie Rose show a few months after NAFTA was passed in 1994 is a rare example of must-see teevee. Goldsmith very presciently warned that globalization was going to destroy the lives of working people in the United States, even as Rose pooh-poohs the idea.

I've posted this video before, but it deserves to be spread as far and widely as possible:


  1. Why is James Goldsmith's head always tilted on the Charlie Rose show? Can't he hold his head up or is it too heavy? It's scary but fascinating to watch his big, heavy head lolling about from side to side never staying up.

  2. Hi,Bill,

    And to make it worse, some city/town governments are doing shit like this:

    Council revives talk of ‘Philadelphia Plan'
    (SOURCE: Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette, 1/15/12, B10)

    WORCESTER — A group of city councilors has resurrected talk about the “Philadelphia Plan” — an economic development tool used in Philadelphia that puts a freeze on predevelopment assessed property values for 10 years, and on any improvements made to commercial property or new construction, as a way to help facilitate expansion of a community's commercial tax base.

    In short, the corporations get money and the city gets money. What's the problem here? Keep reading...

    Councilor-at-Large Frederick C. Rushton and five other councilors co-sponsored an order asking the city administration to update a previous report it did on the Philadelphia Plan, which was also considered by the Mayor's Task Force on Job Growth and Job Retention.

    Mr. Rushton said he would like to bring the issue before his Economic Development Committee as a way to jumpstart discussion.

    He even suggested the possibility of a committee trip to Philadelphia some time in the future so members could meet with Philadelphia officials and discuss with them the merits of the program and how it has worked for that city.

    Any relation to that casino project you mentioned, I wonder?

    “It's time to dust off this report and update it so we can see if this is something that would be right for Worcester,” Mr. Rushton said. “With this program, we could potentially take areas of Worcester that may be long dormant and lay the seeds so they may flower. Let's start a discussion about this and then look at tweaking it so it best fits the needs of Worcester.”

    Joining Mr. Rushton in co-sponsoring the order were: District 4 Councilor Sarai Rivera, District 3 Councilor George J. Russell, District 5 Councilor William J. Eddy, Councilor-at-Large Kathleen M. Toomey and District 1 Councilor Tony Economou.

    Councilor-at-Large Konstantina B. Lukes, meanwhile, said she had questions about the Philadelphia Plan because unlike tax-increment financing deals, job creation is not part of the program.

    “The bottom line is that this would be a tax abatement program that is similar to a TIF, except that no job creation is required,” Mrs. Lukes said. “I have concerns about giving a blanket waiver of taxes for a period of time if there is no job creation. Also, what control would the city have over what goes on within the footprint in these areas?”

    You just knew there HAD to be a catch for these guys to be considering it! Corps and city gets money, workers get SCREWED.

  3. "I really have one question for the American management officials who make decisions like this. How the fuck do you sleep at night? Seriously, I really want to know."

    I imagine it is not very different from how you have slept at night over the past 20 years: knowing that there is immense suffering happening in the third world, but you had to buy those NFL season tickets ...

    In fact, these guys are more kinder than you (or the average american). They are reducing living standards of (comparatively) well-off people to increase the living standards of desperately poor people.

    What is so wrong with the world where people give jobs to those who are the poorest, rather than giving it to those whose are their family or friends (or countrymen)?

  4. Bill Hicks.., in answear to your question. Yes corporate America has indeed been fully and totally taken over by psycopaths. Of this there can be no doubt.

  5. Watching this video really helps establish the time frame required for global changes to seep in. It's been almost 20 years since this was recorded and we can see how it's worked out for everyone, and how it continues to unfold.

    I made me want to reach back in time and slap a few people upside the head.

    In the words of Scott Adams (Dilbert), the world is filled with in-DUH-viduals.

  6. @gus - there's no welfare like CORPORATE welfare.

  7. @Anon #1 - go sell that nonsense in the Chinese factories where they build the nets around the buildings to keep the workers from committing suicide.

  8. I do understand the anger/disappointment. I have it also. But the reality of Peak Oil means there is another reality: suburbs are entirely unviable. 99% of all of them! They are an energy nightmare and this decline is simply the most humane "slow motion" way of having the economic and energy reality hit the US.

    It could instead happen in a more "overnight" fashion within a year or so with everyone starving and unable to relocate before they do. Having it happen slowly means people CAN actually leave the sinking ship in an orderly fashion and have the option to survive at all.

    Rule of thumb: if you can't walk to (or rely on mass transit) for 90% of the places you need to survive for food, work or entertainment, your community is doomed. If you MUST drive by necessity, then your community is doomed. This because cars as a predominate form of transportation are doomed and in 10-20 years you won't be able to afford to own or operate one even if you live depends on it.

  9. An interesting tidbit that I've never forgotten from an Ivan Illich piece: That we never really go faster than bicycles; the speed of any other form of transit is an illusion that does not take into account the time required to work to pay for it; if you consider the hours spent working to pay for a car, it averages out that you're moving at 5 mph...

    Even the Concorde or space travel, divided by the cost, still the same, a few miles per hour.

    Better to get a bike and perhaps a plug in battery operated assist motor for the steeper hills.