Friday, March 19, 2010

Whirlpool To Shutter Plant In Evansville, Indiana
Interview with Union Local President

By Sandy Reid/People’s Tribune

The People's Tribune interviewed Darrell Collins, President IUE-CWA Local 808, in Evansville, Indiana about the closure of the Whirlpool refrigerator plant and the layoff of 1100 workers. The plant is moving to Mexico. Collins has worked at the plant for 40 years.

People's Tribune: Tell our readers about the plant closure and what it is going to mean for the community.

Darrell Collins: There will be 1100 layoffs,with 400 starting on March 26. The last layoff will be in late June. That's only a part of what's going to happen. You got probably another 6-7,000 people that will be affected by this. I know the community doesn't realize what is going to happen when all these people get laid off and stop paying taxes because they don't have a job. There's only so many places to work. Somewhere along the line, some of these politicians are going to have to figure out what's going on here.

PT: We understand that Whirlpool has gotten stimulus money.

DC: They got $19 million stimulus money, but not only that. Over the years, they have gotten several tax incentives to invest money into the property. They just continued on and on to where they are not keeping people in the plant like they are supposed to. Here's my problem. We made this company what it is. The workers did. Now they want to move to Mexico. And all these other companies want to move, go here and there. This is just the very start of what's happening. We are going to carry this fight on to the very end. We are not going to have any jobs here or anywhere. They want to create these new jobs. These new jobs don't pay enough money to support a family on. We've got anywhere from 30-50 husbands and wives working in this plant. So two people are going to lose their income. Everyone keeps promising that they are going to do something about it. But nobody is doing anything. We are going to the streets. We're going do something about it. We're expecting anywhere from 500-1500 people this Friday. We're going to line up along highway 41. And then we will do a march back to the hall. We got 10 speakers, and Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, President Jim Clark of the IUE, several speakers from the community, and our congressman will be here. We've all got the same message: its time that we do something about the problem.

PT: Was there much automation at the plant?

DC: They had several robots and arms that do stuff. They could have invested this money in a new product line. Other than greed, there is no reason for them to move. When you got somebody down there in Mexico making $3.85 hour and they aren't going to buy this refrigerator, they're moving to Mexico to satisfy their greed as far as profits. Then they're going to send that product right back to the U.S.

PT: In Benton Harbor, Michigan, workers have been fighting the reign of Whirlpool. They have around 70% unemployment rate resulting from so many plant closures and now Whirlpool is taking their lakefront property for a profitable redevelopment.

PHOTO /local 808
Whirlpool warned workers not to attend, saying “these negative activities will only hamper employees when they look for future jobs.”

DC: We put a billboard down in Benton Harbor that says, "Shame on Whirlpool." We're tired of taking this and we're not going to take it anymore. People are going to the streets. We're going to do something about this. The plant has been there 56 years. I've worked there 40 years. There's been a lot of changes. You can't tell me they can't turn this around. They've moved stuff out and back 100 times already. They can do it. All they have to do is say 'I'm the one company that is not going to do this.' But they don't care about any worker. It's all about money. They could care less that the community will be devastated when they leave. They came in today, told us about the plant closing. Then they got on a private jet and flew back to Benton Harbor.