When Whirlpool spokesperson Jody Lau announced in May 2006 the closing of the Maytag plant in Herrin, IL, Whirlpool had with the stroke of a pen thrown 1000 workers out work and eliminated a $35 million annual payroll. On the same day, at the same time, they did the same thing to two other Maytag plants -- one in Newton, Iowa and another in Searcy, Arkansas. Over 4,500 no longer had a means of earning a living. News coverage of the closures was immediate -- radio, TV, newspapers. It seemed every Maytag worker in Herrin interviewed described Whirlpool's decision as "devastating." Surely the same was true in Newton and Searcy.
The effects of the closures are broad. You don't eliminate a $35 million annual payroll from an economy such as is found in Southern Illinois without serious consequences for entire communities. Jobs in support industries, such as trucking and transportation, are affected. Jobs in retail are affected. Jobs in various service industries are affected. Such closures are another blow to already suffering municipal and state economies.
At the time, Jody Lau's words sounded almost caring, even woeful. But then, "words do not reality make." Whirlpool is a huge multi-national corporation with holdings all around the world. Brand names include Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air, Amana, Brastemp, Bauknecht, among others. At present, the Company has captured approximately 50% of their markets. Whirlpool is profit driven, pure and simple.
Purely from the stand point of their "profit" -- that is, purely from the stand point of deepening already deep pockets -- the closures in Herrin, Newton, and Searcy were quite rational.
In 2004 Whirlpool committed a $145 million to upgrading its lines in its facilities in Clyde and Marion, Ohio with labor saving technology. When Whirlpool bought the Maytag Corporation in March, 2006 for $1.8 billion, production in Herrin, in Newton, and in Searcy could be and has been moved to Ohio. Production that took approximately 6,500 workers now takes from 2 to 3 thousand, and Whirlpool has Maytag's market.
Whirlpool calls this their "integration with the Maytag Corporation." As for the 4, 500 workers displaced; their ability to work lost all value for Whirlpool, so they were of no value. Whirlpool doesn't give a damn about these peoples or their families. So much for the myth we're somehow "all in this together," the myth of a "partnership between labor and capital." It's just that, a myth and a fraud.
On May 10, 2006, just hours after Whirlpool's decision became public, state and local officials called a news conference trying to offer some hope of keeping the Herrin plant open. But Whirlpool's decision was, as it said, "final," and all were powerless to do a thing about it. Legally, Whirlpool was perfectly within its rights and had made its decision long before May, 10.
The law protects Whirlpool's "property" rights. Said another way, the law guarantees Whirlpool's right to cast out 1,000 workers into joblessness in Herrin, and their families into uncertainty. The same holds for Newton and Searcy. Cold blooded? Well, profit rules, not for human need.
The law hasn't protected these Maytag workers from Whirlpool's drive for profit; just like it hasn't protected the working people of Benton Harbor from Whirlpool seizing their humble homes for the corporation's highly profitable Harbor Shores development; just like it hasn't protected 45,000 working people in Detroit from having their water shut off as part of a corporate move to privatize and profit off of even this basic human need. Need we ask whose law is it anyway? Yes, "society must take over these corporations or these corporations will take over society."
We know what's going on, we're not organized highly enough to successfully take the offensive, the offensive against the corporations and the money bags that own them. We have the right to work; the right to earn a living; the right to take care of our families. We have the right to our homes, the right to health care, the right to education for our children, even the right to drinking water. Apparently not a legal right, but a right nonetheless. We would have these basic rights if we organized in our interests as the class we are.