Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ford Cuts & How They Affect YOU


Even if you do not work for Ford Motor Company, you should be concerned about that state of the domestic auto industry, Ford in particular. The shortfall in the local tax collections and the money problems at the city level are primarily caused by layoffs and furloughs at the two Ford plants in Louisville.

I was an employee at Ford's Louisville Assembly Plant for nearly nine years, and I can tell you there is no better workforce in the city or the state than the UAW members inside that plant. Ford employees do not have it as easy as people think. I often wished the public could come inside and witness what goes on there day after day as life is lived on the assembly line. It is not glamorous work. It is not easy work. One essentially trades his/her physical well being for the pay and benefits. After 30+ years, you are considered the exception to the rule if you do not have some type of chronic degenerative or musculoskeletal disorder.

There are people in this city that are jealous and full of hatred toward the Ford employee because of what he/she makes per hour. This hatred has been in full display recently, because of the automakers weakened financial position. People think the employees are greedy, overpaid and overcompensated in benefits. This type of thinking is misguided and dangerous to our city's economic health.

On March 3, 1999, each UAW-represented Ford worker in Louisville received a record average of $8000 in a lump-sum profit sharing bonus check. In that one day the city of Louisville collected over $1,000,000 in occupational taxes. I did not hear anyone bitching about the wages then. Ford employed around 10,000 workers at that time, all working 10+ hours a day and some mandatory Saturdays. They paid a lot of taxes, and they spent a lot of money. And that is not counting the retirees in the community that rely on Ford-sponsored pensions.

Today, those same plants employ less than 6000 employees, most of which are frequently laid off and collecting state unemployment benefits. Employees are cutting back on expenses, leading to losses in the local restaurant and retail business. People have pulled their kids out of private schools and stopped taking vacations. Our local economy is in tatters.

It was during the slow-down period between 2003 and today that Mayor Abramson tried to slap additional environmental restrictions on Louisville's two Ford plants through the STAR program, ignoring the pleas of the company and the union. He did nothing to help slow the job losses. His well-publicized trips to Detroit have been ineffective. He and his economic team, along with then-Governor Fletcher met with an executive that had announced she was leaving the company the day before the visit. They were given the "bum's rush" out the door.

The thinking seems to be that Ford and other domestic automakers are asking for a "bailout". Not true. They are asking for a LOAN. 4 out of 10 people that try to buy are turned away because the customer cannot secure a loan for the car. The people that whine "bailout" also say the employees should be forced to take pay cuts. The fact is, employees have come through and sacrificed for the company every time they were asked through contract giveaways and concessions. New employees hired will only make around $14.00 an hour, with no pension or health care benefits. Those types of wages do not put enough money into city coffers.

People also allege that the price of Ford vehicles is too high because the company pays high wages. Again, not true. Through UAW concessions at the national and local level, labor costs for a Ford vehicle have fallen 4% in 2 years. A significant savings for the company.

The city is going broke because of Mayor Abramson's inability to secure a good financial incentive for Ford, thus leading to layoffs, slowdowns and no new investment in the Louisville Assembly Plant. The Mayor has now proposed spending cuts for vital services and a hiring freeze for the city. These cuts in human services will affect the residents of Southwest Louisville more acutely than in other areas.

If we are to reverse this situation, a shrewd, evasive move by the Mayor is in order. We need to keep these high-wage jobs in Louisville and do whatever possible to put these people back to work, building the products that are the pride of Louisville. Giving money to the Cordish Co. to develop corporate franchises that pay minimum wage is not going to do it.

Instead of being jealous of the Ford employees in Louisville, we must insist that these high paying jobs remain and prosper. Replacing a $30.00 an hour manufacturing job with a $7.00 an hour job at an Applebees downtown is not an economic policy. It is a recipe for continued and prolonged disaster, and the shortfall has to come from somewhere. Property taxes are on the rise sharply in Louisville, in a desperate attempt to keep the boat afloat due to the loss of manufacturing in the city. How far will the Mayor go in using the Gestapo-like tactics of IPL and Metro Animal Services to raise revenue? We shall soon see. The way to keep your taxes low is to keep high-paying jobs in Louisville.

For more information on the myths of the Big 3 automakers, please click HERE, and stay informed. We need these Ford employees as much as they need Louisville's government to step up to the plate. Imagine a Louisville without Ford Motor Company. That should scare the hell out of you.

9 comments:

  1. I suggest anyone who's livelyhood would be affected by the loss of Ford, GM, or Chrysler also contact their state representatives and let them know! I also suggest they contact any sponsors of local Radio and/or TV shows that are broadcasting anti-job saving rhetoric (i.e. Francene)

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  2. I do feel bad for the workers who are suffering through all of this. However, Ford isn't the holy grail of employers. The writing has been on the wall since the 1970s. Take a look at these little gems • May 21, 1979 [People]
    • Vol. 11
    • No. 20
    Ralph Moody May Travel the Road to Riches in a Diesel Car That Gets 84 Miles Per Gallon

    Moody's Magic Machine [Time Magazine]
    Monday, May. 14, 1979

    Into Washington last week tootled a brightly painted car that, its builders claim, had made the more than 800-mile drive from Oak Hill, Fla., on only twelve gallons of diesel fuel. Ralph Moody, 61, and Mike Shetley, 36, two former employees of the Ford racing team, had come to show Henry Jackson's Senate Energy Committee the converted 1979 Mercury Capri that they contend gets more than 57.2 m.p.g. in city driving and nearly 80 m.p.g. on the highway. They say that it also accelerates from 0 to 60 in 17 seconds and has a top speed of 105 m.p.h.

    NBC Evening News for
    Saturday, Apr 28, 1979
    ________________________________________
    Headline: 84 Miles Per Gallon Car
    Abstract: (Studio) Report with regard to automobile that gets 84 miles per gallon introduced
    REPORTER: Jessica Savitch
    (Oak Hill, Florida) Federal officials said looking at car, built by Mike Shetley and Ralph Moody. Automotive professor Bill Gordon reported to have tested-car. Offers by builders for the rts. to the car noted. [SBA chief cnsl. Milton STEWART - speaks about trying to help builders through red tape.] [EPA official Ralph STAHLMAN - comments on car.]
    REPORTER: Ike Seamans ....

    So, no I don't care if the Big 3 go the way of the covered wagon, their greed created this problem. Again, my prayers go out to the workers, not just here but accross the country. As usual, the workers get screwed and the execs get their bonuses and move on.

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  3. You may not care NOW, but you WILL care when this city's financial position causes it to raise your taxes. Ford employees and Ford Motor are the "Holy Grail" in this town. The statistics are there for you to see.

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  4. I understand your concerns. I have good friends who work for Ford and it pains me to see what they are having to go through just to get by. Having said that, I still disagree with your premise that everything needs to be done to keep Ford viable. This city and the Commonwealth have given Ford more incentives to stay than I care to remember. Each time these companys are given incentives, it costs me through higher taxes. Heck, even the school board has the power to raise my property taxes on a whim. How that's constitutional I'll never know. I enjoy your blog and appreciate what you are trying to do for the Southwest end of town. I'm afraid we are going to have to agree to disagree on this one topic however. Besides, it may be a moot point soon anyway. I read earlier this morning that the Chinese are setting themselves up to try and purchase the Big 3. I bet Congress would block it but who knows. China owns most of our debt, if they want it bad enough, I bet they'll get it.

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  5. I took the education buyout from Ford two years ago because I realized that even with 18 years seniority I would never see 65 working there. This was not the fault of line workers but management. They still don't get it.

    They tried to replace me with a robot that was 4 foot too tall to work in the building. They only spent 10 months and $2.4 million on the thing. I told them it wouldn't work the day I first saw it. That was not the first time. So sad to be so right.

    While I hope Ford can struggle along long enough that one day I might get some of my retirement, I'm not counting on it.

    Let's just hope other employers realize how good, dedicated, etc those workers really are.

    And Francene has no clue.

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  6. The financial incentives that Ford receives in Ky are not large ones, and the taxes on employee wages more than offset any state incentive.

    People like Francene on 84 WHAS are trying to dumb this down to the point where people blame the line worker for all Ford's problems, and it is working. She said today, "I don't care" if you lose your job or health insurance. Will she care if she loses her advertising? Being an elitist like Francene keeps you from worrying about the plight of others. Today when trying to put herself in the place of a line worker, she mumbled something about demanding Cuban Cigars and diamonds. Out of touch, and unable to speak on the subject.

    Ford motor Co. made $7.2 billion dollars profit in 1999 while employees enjoyed better benefits than they do now. Workers have done their part.

    Thanks for the comments, everyone.

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  7. So many people get their information from biased sources it is impossible for them to know the truth about Ford or a host of other areas. The media has been proactive in helping ruin the reputations of the hardest working people in the City and the Country.

    Look at Toyota for example. They pay on average the same wages and benefits that the BIG 3 do and until recently were doing just fine. The union wages and benefits were a standard for others to follow and Toyota for one had to match the pay or not get quality workers. This was a win win for Toyota and its workers.

    Toyota was able to keep workers because of matching pay and benefits that greatly enhanced their ability to build quality cars. Turnover is a huge concern for companies and nowhere more feared than in the auto industry.

    Think about it. You trust your life and the lives of your families when you buckle them in an automobile. I would think most would like to be able to trust that it was made safely. When you continue to turnover employees, like temp agencies do, that quality and the safety standards we rely on go out the window.

    The real costs differential is for retirees. After 30 years of working there Brian is right you are a broken down shell of what you once were. You trade your body for a chance at a better way for your family. I worked there almost 8 years and had 2 major surgeries as a result of the job.

    The UAW and the Big 3 recognize this and bargain in good faith understanding the sacrifices made by the workers in this regard.

    Toyota typically dumps their problem on the taxpayer. As such Toyota could care less about their employees n this regard and we should be thankful that Ford and the other Big 3 members take care of their own instead of dumping them on each of us through higher taxes.

    One thing to note however. While a candidate for Mayor in 2006 I could not believe that Abramson waited 8 months to finally decide to meet with Ford after their announcement of the Way Forward plan. His arrogance in not doing so lost any goodwill between Ford and the City. The Mayor then had to practically beg for ameeting and even today Ford could care less about meeting with him. They understand he is about theshow not the result. Strike one.

    He then went on to say that Ford was lying about the STAR program hurting them. Additionally he called out the UAW leadership Rocky Comito and Kirk Gillenwater and called them liars in regards to Ford. He did this at the UAW hall on Fern Valley Rd. When does anyone allow someone into their "home" and get away with treating them like this? Again goodwill thrown right out the window. Strike 2.

    After all was said and done the UAW STILL endorsed Abramson for Mayor. Most could not understand the logic of this then or now. Unofficially it was said Abramson agreed to buy some Ford cars that is why he got the endorsement. Of course any of us would have done that it is called supporting your local industry. He has proven he is not pro labor, as so many supposed Democrats today, and yet still gets backed.

    Strike 3.

    Our troubles today are a direct result of this type of fear of retribution that have allowed us to be used as pawns at the whimof the Abramson machine and the local rubberstamps that allow it.

    When labor finally stands together we will see the manufacturing base grow once again in this Country. Until then the hypocrisy will continue to divide and ultimately conquer the true labor force in our Country and our City.

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  8. What I find very repulsive is that the very people who blast, bitch about, and rip the people making 50to 100 K working at Ford Motor Company are the same people who have never worked a day in their entire lives. Interestingly, that many of these people have never worked in a factory, assembly line, picked beans, or did much of anything physical to sustain themselves.

    Like the multinationals, the believe that this nation of workers, citizen soldiers, and average people should work for peanuts so they can have the cheapest car they can possibly have. That way they can constantly complain about something on a vehicle that some of them are not smart enough to change the spark plugs or much of anything else.

    I would hate to see half of these people bitching about the Ford workers, Iron Workers, actually get out there and run a press, fix a car, manufacture something, build something, work construction or anything else.

    Its easy to criticize someone when you sit behind a computer 8 hours a day in your dainty little office and never have worked for a living. It seems that Louisville much like a great percentage of America has forgotten the work ethic and backbone that made this nation great. It was the citizen soldier, the worker, the farmer, etc that made this nation great. Not a bunch of petty bureaucrats with little to do but pass silly laws that affect the livelihoods of millions.

    Abramson has spent years trying to trash the community and he has largely succeeded in robbing the city of a lot of its industry. I was talking to a local welding shop owner today about the economy and he was talking about how much we miss the manufacturing base around here and how it affects not only his business but others.

    But to listen to Abramson and Joe Reagan, one would think that Louisville is booming with business, professional, and technical jobs. Meanwhile a great deal of the city is based on low wage box flipping jobs that pay low wages and uses part time help. Not to mention a service industry sector that brings nothing more than 7 to 10 dollar an hour jobs. Hardly a recipe for economic success.

    I think that Francene needs to get off her high horse and learn what a real days labor really is. Its rather easy to blast working people and people working their butts off day to day making a living producing your food, building your furniture, your car, your truck, your house, the roads, etc. I could go on and on about that.

    What the elite class and those ripping working class Americans are doing is to cheapen our labor and our lives for their benefit of buying cheap inferior Chinese made junk produced by slave labor at 10 cents to a dollar an hour.

    This sweatshop phenomena is not limited to China however. It happens in Pakistan where kids make soccer balls for 9 cents an hour. Indonesia where the average wage is only a few hundred dollars a year. Vietnam where the average income is under a 1000 dollars a year. Mexico where its under 4000 a year and probably less.

    Its ok for Francene and her ilk to wear the cheap clothes produced by slave labor and child labor by the multinational corporations and sold at China Mart or anywhere else. The same goes for every major retailer in this area selling cheap and slave labor goods produced in some sweatshop in Asia, Middle East, and South and Central America.

    So when they buy that 50 dollar overpriced shirt just remember that it put an American worker out of work. It also is overpriced while the company that makes it pays their store help 8 dollars an hour yet still wants premium pricing for their overpriced and ill gotten gains.

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