Whirlpool Workers Go Down The Drain

Posted on October 31, 2011 by

It’s sad and ironic to see the decline of manufacturing in the American southeast. 

Those states – Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia – lured industry from the rustbelt (Milwaukee, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) in the 70s, 80s and 90s – with promises of nonunion wage rates and compliant labor. 

It turns out, of course, that many of the relocating companies used these right-to-work states as way-stations to their more recent destinations in Latin America and Asia. 

Whirlpool’s decision last week to desert Fort Smith, Arkansas in a few months and strand more than a thousand workers gained national attention.  It came as a surprise that refrigerators were still being made in the United States and that these employees were Steelworkers (there was no direct indication that unionization per se prompted the plant closing). 

Over the past few decades, the southeast has been trying to maintain its manufacturing base by aggressively courting foreign carmakers with generous tax schemes and other incentives. 

In fact, half the autos now manufactured in the United States are made nonunion in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee where Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen have – or are building – plants.  (Though these foreign companies are unionized in their home countries, they aggressively – and successfully – resist UAW organizing). 

The question is: 

Are these auto plants here to stay or are they – like appliance factories – just placeholders as the work ultimately migrates south of the boarder and across the pacific?

Comments (2)


  1. Hank Lacayo says:

    When are we going to wake up. It is a sad state of affairs that we silently observe the American workforce continuing on a downward spiral.

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