Feb 11, 2006

Open Letter From A Jeep Worker - America's New Idea Of "Job Creation"

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The following letter was forwarded to me by a source in the Toledo North Jeep plant. I believe it originated as a letter to the editor.


(Toledo, OH) I'm sick of the "new supplier park" at Jeep being touted as great news. Here's the real deal: The "suppliers" won't be suppling parts or widgets, they'll be building the new Jeep Wrangler. The three new companies will literally be building the body, painting it, then "pre-trim" will be done by the third. A small number of actual Jeep workers will finish it, call it a Jeep, and out the door.

So what's wrong with that? Well for starters, every one of those "new jobs" replaces an existing one, but pays much less. Will they offer health and retirement benefits? Who knows? We don't even know if they'll be union jobs!

I've been working at Jeep for a decade and that's considered "diddly squat" for senority there. So I'll probably be laid off. If I want to work for one of the new companies, I have to quit Jeep, signing paperwork saying I don't want to come back. Then ther's no guarantee that one of the new companies will even hire me, and if one of them does, how long is that company even going to be there?

My grandparents, parents, and other family members retired from Jeep. Others plan to retire soon. I grew up thinking I'd have the same chance at the American dream: 30 years and you're done. So personally, the "supplier park" depresses and terrifies me.

It seems like America's new idea of job creation is to just replace one person for another, who'll do it for less, because they just lost their job.

If none of this seems to scare you, maybe it will when you're working at Wall-mart with me and the rest of America, wishing there were such a thing as retirement!

Eddie Robinson, Jr., Toledo OH


There is little that I can add to this letter, except to say that it reflects the views of many people that I come into contact with. We no longer seem to be the land of opportunity, but rather the land of diminishing returns.

4 comments:

historymike said...

A response letter from former UAW rep Nick Vuich:

In reading the letter in the Readers' Forum from Eddie Robinson, I couldn't help but wonder where this 10-year veteran of Jeep was in December, 2003. At the SeaGate Centre before 3,500 other workers, I explained that the new contract created a "supplier park" concept. This concept was completely and thoroughly explained to the Jeep membership at that time.

Had we not negotiated this concept, the two new Wrangler versions currently in initial production stages would have been built in Mexico or Canada. This would have been devastating to Jeep and reduced the work force by at least one half. In addition, by agreeing to this concept, we were able to negotiate the Dodge Nitro and a third shift for the Liberty line.

Fortunately, the vast majority of Jeep veterans saw the benefit of increasing the number of models and vehicles we build while maintaining plant manpower numbers. Consequently, the members overwhelmingly approved the contract. Had that not happened, many current Jeep workers would most certainly be working elsewhere for the state minimum wage.

The writer was incorrect concerning the wages and benefits of the "on site suppliers." The contract provides that the Wrangler body and paint operations are required through 2011 to pay wages and benefits equivalent to Jeep workers. Jeep workers are also being offered first opportunity to work in these facilities.

The "supplier park" work, which includes chassis and sub-assembly of parts such as instrument panels and seats, to name a few, was already being done outside Ohio. This concept has brought those jobs back to the Toledo community that helped us secure the additional vehicles we will build. The assembly of all of these parts to the Wrangler (the highest concentration of employees) remains the responsibility of Jeep.

Had the Jeep work force not had the foresight to be innovative and secured additional work in 2003, we would find ourselves faced with a potential plant closing as some GM and Ford plants now face. If the Jeep work force (including Mr. Robinson) and its current UAW union leadership continue to work on innovative ways of bringing additional products to the Jeep facility, as was done in the past, Eddie will get to be the "proud retired veteran" I am.

Nick Vuich

Adam Hansen said...

The line that suprised me the most was the "American dream: 30 years and you're done..." Since when was that the American dream. I thought it was more along the lines of work your butt off & take some chances and you can create virtually anything.

Stephanie said...

adam,

"Since when was that the American dream."

I don't think there's just one "American Dream." That sounds very much like the "working man's" American Dream. Yours sounds very much like the entrepreneur's American Dream. Both are equally valid. Mine is yet another form of the American Dream. I want to be a well enough selling author to support my family and pay off my mortgage. America is a great country that can support many, many dreams.

Hooda Thunkit said...

I watch this as an outsider gleaning most of the available information from the posts on ToledoTalk.com, but can't help wondering, "Have America's autoworkers priced themselves out of business?"

And with no shortage of workers willing to do the job for lower wages (ala WalMart, how low will the wages go?

Maybe things will change when the (obviously) younger and cheaper workers begin burning out in 10-15 years or so. That (burn-out) is what happens when your goal is maximum units for minimal dollars, but who gets to pay the tab that burn-out brings?

Currently, in WalMart's case, it appears to be the American taxpayers yet again...

How to deal with these dramatic changes and who’s to blame?

There are plenty of suspects and lots of blame to keep the debates fired up for decades…