Whirlpool Warns Workers: Don’t You Dare Protest « The Washington Independent
Whirlpool should be used to protests after plant closures by now: After shutting down factories and laying off workers in Newton, Iowa, Herrin, Ill., and Searcy, Ark., in 2006, in LaVergne, Tenn., and Reynosa, Mexico in 2008, and in Fort Smith, Ark., and Evansville, Ind., in 2009 and 2010 as part of its latest round of layoffs affecting 5,000 people, one would think they’d know the drill. People get mad and depressed when their livelihoods disappear, and especially when their jobs get sent overseas. But a letter sent to its Evansville employees indicates management has a tin ear as well as a cold heart when it comes to this round of layoffs.
Perhaps the $20 million in job creation funds it accepted to develop new technologies shortly after it announced the Evansville layoffs to little media attention has something to do with it? Nonetheless, Sam Stein at The Huffington Post reports that Whirlpool would like its soon-to-be-former employees to go gently into that good night of unemployment and dwindling prospects so they can keep their taxpayer money.
And they most definitely don’t want them to join in a union protest on Friday with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka — but it’s all for their own good.
“With this in mind, we have shared our concern with Local 808 leaders that these negative activities will only hamper employees when they look for future jobs. The entire community is aware and sympathetic towards the situation we all face. We fear that potential employers will view the actions of a few and determine whether they would want to hire any of Evansville Division employees in the future. We hope that this is not the case, but think it is certainly a consideration.”
Evansville, a city of about 117,000 people, had a median household income of $34,629 in 2008 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But the Evansville metropolitan area, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics, supported 173,000 jobs last December (down from 179.2 in November 2008). Unemployment, while under the national average of 10 percent in December, was 8.1 percent — more than 2 points up from November 2008. In Evansville, 12.3 percent of the workforce belongs to a union — the same as the national average. It’s a fair guess that potential employers in Evansville won’t be turned off to see their about-to-be-unemployed neighbors protesting the company that is moving their jobs to Mexico — and a better bet that the company is more concerned about the bad publicity for its stimulus grant than the future employment prospects of the very people it is laying off.