Friday, May 27, 2005


The Whitewash of the Whirlpool Corporation

The Whirlpool Corporation, the world¹s largest manufacturer of household appliances, has its corporate headquarters in Benton Harbor, Michigan. It is a multibillion dollar corporation, but has never made a major investment in the city¹s predominantly black community to rescue the people from poverty, nor given substantial numbers of jobs to black people. Instead, Whirlpool, with lower taxes, favorable land deals to expand its plants, and other corporate demands, has profited from the dire situation of the black population. The truth is that Benton Harbor is a company town, and Whirlpool controls the local economy and the political structure. Black people in Benton are desperately poor, while the whites in St. Joseph are prosperous and powerful. Whirlpool apparently wants it that way.

Most telling is that Fred Upton, an heir to the Whirlpool corporate founder, has served in the U.S. Congress since 1986 as a "Newt Gingrich Republican," part of the right-wing Republican cabal that has been dismantling the social gains of the 1960s civil rights movement. Upton resides in St. Joseph and is part of its power base. Whirlpool money was used to put him in power and has kept him in office for the last eight congressional terms. A multimillionaire, he has outspent every opposing candidate he has ever had. Although the congressional district Upton serves covers both Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, it is primarily the city of St. Joseph which has benefited from his years in Congress.

Upton has secured millions of dollars in block grants, federal loans and contracts, state community and economic grants, and other funding for the St. Joseph community, while obtaining virtually nothing by comparison for Benton Harbor¹s residents. St. Joseph has fine homes, well paved streets, venture capital for businesses, and has even become a tourist center/ Meanwhile, Benton Harbor has seriously run-down houses, few minority-owned businesses, and has virtually no access to capital or community development funding.

Everyone on both sides of the bridge that separates Benton Harbor and St. Joseph is fully aware that Fred Upton is working for the betterment of St. Joseph, and it is for this reason that many Benton Harbor residents literally curse his name and blame him in large part for their misfortune.There has been a long history of police brutality and misconduct by local law enforcement officials against the black population of Benton Harbor. Residents of the city have been made scapegoats for economic and social conditions beyond their control, and have been subjected to discriminatory practices and procedures by local police agencies and judicial officials who cover for the excessive force and racial profiling of black citizens that goes on routinely. Neither Upton nor any official of the Whirlpool Corporation has ever publicly denounced racism and police brutality in Berrien County, which affects thousands of black residents.

Whirlpool has created a phony civic group, the "Committee for World Class Communities," which many people in Benton Harbor know is a fraud. The group has done nothing to reduce poverty, nor provided any tangible resources for community or economic development, besides being merely based in Benton Harbor. All the committee advocates is useless ³talk² between black politicians and white power brokers in St. Joseph. The committee does not advocating sharing political power nor major reinvestment in the black community. In fact, Whirlpool is the hidden economic base of the racist government in Berrien County. Without Fred Upton and Whirlpool, white officials could not dominate county politics and steal all the community and economic development funds for the white people of St. Joseph.

So we are leading a worldwide boycott of Whirlpool. We think Whirlpool is vulnerable to such an international campaign, since it is just beginning to move into international markets with its products. We ask you not to buy Whirlpool, Kitchen Aid, or other subsidiary products because Whirlpool is clearly subsidizing racism and poverty in Berrien County. (For a listing of Whirlpool¹s entire product line, please go to its website at: Not until this arrogant and racist company loses millions of dollars in sales and profits will it then decide to genuinely negotiate a just settlement which can economically benefit the black population of Benton Harbor and end economic apartheid in Berrien County.