You will probably find this blog to be among the most comprehensive places to find information on this issue.
From: Alan Maki [ email@example.com ]
Sent: Wednesday, August 15, 2007 10:04 AM
To: Lynn Hinkle [ firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Cc: Thomas Kurhajetz [ email@example.com ]
Subject: Another thought... concerning the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant
I have some concerns about the role of the United Auto Workers union leadership--- locally, the regional leadership, and the national leadership--- particularly the role of Dick Long, the national chair of UAW-CAP (United Auto Workers-Community Action Program)who seems to want to be kept apprised of my activities in Michigan and Minnesota for some unexplained reason. Since Dick Long has apparently not demonstrated an interest in keeping the Ford Plant open, you can understand why I am wondering what his interest would be in my activities here in Minnesota. Dick has not demonstrated much of an interest in advancing the rights of casino workers in Michigan, so I don't know what his interest is there, either.
I think we need to consider some kind of “open letter” to the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party on this issue… one which lets them know people are unhappy with a DFL dominated Legislative Caucus which can not move legislation to save the Ford Plant through a DFL dominated Senate Committee on the one hand along with a “gentle” reminder the DFL now has an added responsibility to act aggressively on this issue in a timely manner while they have domination of both the House and Senate with an important election coming up.
I don’t think it is right that the DFL leadership would place this Plant in jeopardy by now telling the UAW to stick with us and help us expand our majority in the Senate and the House because this is subjecting the future of working people to a “crap shoot.” No one knows what the next election might bring.
We should notify DFL legislators we are circulating the "open letter" so they know building a movement to save the Ford Plant is underway; I think we should keep this letter brief and simple… circulate it for a couple months among activists, in the communities throughout Minnesota, and in the Ford Plant for rank and file workers to sign onto.
I recently received a letter from the Chair of the Pine County DFL--- Thomas Kurhajetz (firstname.lastname@example.org) asking if Ford workers were prepared and interested in taking on the role of running this plant if kept open under some scheme of public ownership--- whether through some type of worker/legislative proposal or a joint partnership with say the Chinese (perhaps Cubans and Venezuelans). I think this is a very legitimate question and the type of letter I am suggesting would help to answer his question.
I think it rather obvious we need such grassroots community and rank and file initiative in order to combat the role of the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce in all of this whose members obviously have several reasons for wanting to see large-scale industrial production come to an end at the Ford Plant because this will help to drive wages down in the surrounding area, and very influential real-estate speculators active in the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce stand to make a killing on this entire deal. Members of the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce exert tremendous influence within the Minnesota DFL through the DFL Business Caucus.
Apparently the DFL Party leadership and the DFL Legislative Caucus have been reluctant to respond because they are getting too many mixed signals from the UAW local and national leadership. On one hand the lawyer for the UAW sits on the Ford Site Planning Committee and has been quite silent on keeping the plant a manufacturing facility; on the other hand, the local UAW leadership failed to approach the Minnesota House or Senate with the full weight of the membership backing them up in these two committee hearings; with the Senate hearing turning into a complete fiasco and defeat for the proposed legislation package put together by Senator Cohen. I think maybe the DFL Party and Legislative Caucus leaderships are getting the idea the UAW was merely going through some motions without any intent to follow through. This would certainly be in keeping with an “all talk, no action” attributed to the UAW Administrative (Reuther faction) Caucus of Ron Gettlefinger.
We should be aware of a few problems:
One, the UAW local leadership has apparently given up any hope of saving this plant and has become rather bitter from what I have been told regarding the MN DFL; unfortunately the MN DFL is our only hope of saving the Ford Plant and we are going to have to muster tremendous grassroots community involvement along with rank and file worker activity in the Plant to mount the kind of pressure needed to over come the influence of the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce and the DFL Business Caucus;
Two, the UAW local has not raised the issue of public ownership;
Three, the UAW through its attorney who is on the Ford Site Planning Committee has refused to challenge the devious and very racist planning methods used by this Ford Site Planning Committee in that even the proposed housing scheme is designed, by intent, to circumvent integrated housing while allowing one of the most successfully integrated plants to close.
This housing scheme is based upon maximizing the profits of the Ford Motor Company and real-estate speculators; bringing into question the role of Merritt Clapp-Smith who obviously has a conflict of interest in all of this.
As you are aware, Merritt Clapp-Smith has refused to address my questions put to her regarding her family’s role in the Twin Cities real-estate market. Apparently the investigators for the City of St. Paul whose job it is to investigate such claims of conflict of interest are either taking their sweet old time in conducting the investigation they informed me they would be undertaking--- until after the dirty work has been done; or, they have swept this under the rug.
Since the Clapp family has a history of under-handed and even illegal real-estate dealings this makes the call for Merritt Clapp-Smith’s role in all of this even more necessary to explore the aspect of a “conflict” of interest.
There is also the aspect of the “fiduciary” responsibilities of public officials which would seem to have been “over-looked” in this entire matter.
I also think this Apollo Alliance needs to become involved in this struggle to save the Ford Plant along with those who attended the Cornell University forum (A North American Labor Assembly on Climate Crisis: Building a Global Movement for Clean Energy) which could give this issue an international perspective since the issues of climate change and capitalist globalization figure prominently in this issue.
The United Steel Workers union President Leo Girard and the head of the Sierra Club, Carl Pope were in the Twin Cities quite some time ago demonstrating concern for the future of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant, however we haven't seen anything of the two since. And, David Foster, the former USW Regional Director--- now replaced by Bob Bratulich--- is a very prominent figure in the Apollo Alliance. So far, I have not heard any of them address the issue of using public ownership to save the Ford Plant.
To me, it doesn't seem logical to continue talking about "saving the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant" knowing the politicians and others have given up on finding another corporate owner for the Plant; and, then, refusing to follow through on putting forward public ownership which is the only alternative remaining.
I also think we need to find a way to link up with those who have developed what appears to be a mass auto-worker/community response to a similar situation in Windsor, Ontario.
I have Bcc’ed this e-mail to a number of others including a number of UAW rank and file activists around the Midwest and some members of Soldiers of Solidarity who have asked me to keep them up to speed on what is taking place around this issue.
You might be interested in a letter I sent to Dick Long on another matter available on my blog:
Below is a sample leaflet I have sent out to a group of people who have expressed interest in public ownership of the Ford Plant. I am suggesting it be circulated inside the Ford Plant to find out if there is interest on the part of Ford workers in their running this plant while under public ownership since Thomas Kurhajetz, the MN DFL Chair for Pine County, has now raised this very important, basic, and fundamental question. I think his question bares out the fact that interest in saving the Ford Plant concerns many Minnesotans. Obviously, unless Ford workers, members of UAW Local 879, have a chance to discuss this issue we will never know the answer to his question expressed, very bluntly, in an e-mail to me:
So Alan have the workers at the Ford Plant expressed an interest in running the plant?
Not yet... but then again, no one asked them.
I also think we need to find a way to legally challenge the sale of the Ford Dam which has been an integral part--- and reason for--- Ford's very profitable long-time venture in the Twin Cities.
It would be unfair for a publicly owned enterprise to be hobbled with having to pay for the same electricity the Ford Motor Company has had access to for free all these years since the Plant was built... compliments of Minnesota tax-payers.
That this hydro producing Ford Dam is being sold to a foreign corporation, thus allowing yet another corporation to be in control of our energy resources, is of further concern at a time when there is a stated objective to be free of foreign domination in the energy producing field.
I noticed in your article on the need to save the Ford Plant the concept of public ownership is missing, also.
Alan L. Maki
58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763
Cell phone: 651-587-5541
Check out my blog:
Thoughts From Podunk
Do you find it strange--- living in the world's greatest democracy--- no one has asked YOU if you are interested in keeping this plant and dam intact, and operating? Has anyone asked YOU if you might be interested running this plant in order to save your job, and the jobs of future generations of working people here in the Twin Cities if this St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant were to be placed under public ownership through state legislative mandate?
Who should be asking YOU this question?
Union leaders to begin with.
The Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, for sure.
The members of the Ford Site Planning Committee.
St. Paul and Minneapolis city council members.
State and federal legislators.
The news media.
If you are interested in the concept of Public Ownership, we can work together in some kind of "Ad Hoc Committee" composed of community activists and rank and file union activists from this plant...
We would like to talk to you about what we can do together.
Let's get acquainted and discuss our options.
As residents of the community, community activists, and fellow workers employed throughout the area we are fully aware that your struggles over the years have contributed to all of us living better lives, too.
We need not wait for so-called "leaders" to act... rank and file working class activists like Phil Raymond and Brother Bill McKie built the UAW... time is of the essence... the real-estate speculators have the wrecking balls moving in.
A citizens' initiative to Save the Ford Plant is called for; a citizens', grassroots initiative might be able to save the Ford Plant.
In Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and community activists did just this... they convinced the government to go along with the idea and the farm implement manufacturing business is doing better than it ever did under Ford ownership.
We have already wasted a great deal of time waiting for others to do something for us and they haven't delivered in saving this plant.
We need to act quickly without further delay... we have waited far too long already waiting for community, union, and political leaders to act... the next step is ours to take.
We can all see what we get when we wait for so-called "leaders" to do anything for us... we need look no further than the I-35W Bridge submerged in the Mississippi River.
Lynn Hinkle wrote the following article:
Ford site could be the launching pad for green manufacturing in Minnesota
By: LYNN HINKLE
Making the most of the Ford site won't happen with business- or labor- or governance-as-usual. And, as we rebuild our economy in sync with our environment, it's worth noting that some local union folks began working on that years ago - at the Ford plant.
Without fanfare, UAW Local 879 worked for more than 10 years to creatively maximize the assets of Ford's Twin Cities Assembly Plant in St. Paul.
These efforts worked. As a result, the life of the plant with its good jobs was extended, until a year ago Ford announced plans to close the plant in 2008.
Now, those creative efforts by Local 879 should help frame the choices for the mayor's Ford Site Task Force, which has been asked to recommend a redevelopment plan.
Those choices include a range of options, from simply maintaining the Ford plant's premier green manufacturing capabilities to enabling complementary enhancements.
A big problem, however, is Ford's near-term effort to sell its electricity-generating dam on the Mississippi. Selling the dam separate from the rest of the site would narrow the Ford Site Task Force's options - from creating a range of world-class green manufacturing possibilities to overseeing brown-field infill.
Here's why this is especially troubling:
In large part because of the Ford plant's clean hydro power, a stable, vibrant, mixed-use community has grown around it in St. Paul.
But in many other U.S. communities, although it sustained families and built cities, manufacturing has lost its appeal. It has become the object of a NIMBY - "not-in-my-backyard" - groundswell.
This NIMBY attitude has given more-than-subtle support for the off-shoring of U.S. manufacturing capacity. The result has been a decline in manufacturing jobs here and in environmental quality where the facilities relocated.
Years ago, UAW Local 879 saw these forces working against manufacturing. Instead of resting on what was already one of the world's greenest manufacturing platforms, we moved to make it more sustainable. Some of St Paul and Minnesota's best manufacturing jobs were at stake. Proactively, we set out to improve the Ford plant's market position with a framework that's now understood as "sustainability."
• The local negotiated with Ford to create a one-of-its-kind work week agreement that reduced the Ford plant's carbon footprint and created new revenue from the hydro power.
• At roughly the same time, the local began a collaborative effort to add another asset to our Ford plant: an onsite training center. With resources from the state and the UAW, the center provided leading-edge robotics skills to Ford workers and Minnesota college students.
By the normal standards, the Ford plant workforce was recognized for its sustained high quality and productivity. But adding value where none had existed before was connecting dots no one else had even seen.
• In 2005, the local again took the initiative, this time to create production flexibility that helped make the most of the hydro power. Manufacturing almost anything on that site, because of its clean power, would represent an advantage in a greening economy. But the local also proposed a plan for a green product from this highly sustainable plant.
The idea was to produce green products, like flex-fuel Rangers, from our already-green plant. The idea was meant to keep manufacturing jobs in St Paul by giving Ford a stunning launch into a future being rapidly reshaped by demands for carbon reduction.
The problem was getting Ford to see how a green product from a green plant could dramatically meet and reshape an already growing sustainability market.
Unlike Ford, the state aligned with this vision. It created a Task Force on Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles. Representing a broad range of interests, that Task Force met regularly at the UAW hall to map out state deployment of plug-in hybrids and possible production of hybrids or other green products at the Ford plant.
The idea here is this: St. Paul has tremendous potential to press its manufacturing advantage in an increasingly green marketplace.
Manufacturing vehicles involving clean-fuel technology at St Paul's premier green plant would be a clear expression of the green product/green plant vision. But the opportunity for green products goes beyond the next generation of personal transportation.
The Ford plant as an integrated site is well suited for a green manufacturing park blending production of wind turbines and light-rail vehicles.
The symmetry of hydro turbines powering production of wind turbines is beautiful. It could secure generations of manufacturing jobs while helping to restore our planetary home.
Does this manufacturing use at the core of the future site preclude other complementary uses, like an expanded training/research facility? If Highland's current mixed use is any clue, it hasn't yet.
But without the hydro's clean, economical power at the core of its future use, the site becomes a limited-option brown-field - less likely to produce a manufacturing park's economic multiplier from tax-paying, solid-wage jobs.
There's much more at stake here than what winds up on that piece of property. The Ford Assembly Plant could be an inspiring model of sustainable development. It could be a launch site for a whole new manufacturing capability for Minnesota - an opportunity, for example, to meet the large, long-term demand for wind turbines that the state's new Renewable Energy Standard will require. It could include manufacturing at each point in the supply chain, all the way back to Minnesota-supplied iron ore. That is manufacturing capability no other state has yet secured.
Minnesota could become the land of 10,000 green-collar jobs.
These ideas for manufacturing aligned with a green future are natural expressions of the Ford plant's legacy of sustainability.
UAW Local 879 has been a steward of that legacy. As such, we are aligned with the Ford Site Task Force to keep good options on the table. These options range from maintaining the premier green manufacturing site to complementary mixed use. The key is to keep the Ford site linked to its source of economical and carbon-free energy.
Now is the perfect time to at least examine the role of municipal power in Sacramento or in Austin, Texas, as way to drive economic development.
Equally instructive is St Paul's own historic leadership - in the complex creation of District Heating and in recent efforts to keep manufacturing jobs at Rock-Tenn by maintaining a source of clean, economical energy.
As it has in the past, St. Paul needs to be creative - this time at the Ford site. At a minimum, it should support efforts to keep the elements of the site as an integrated whole.
It's not possible to overstate the impact of decisions about the future use of the Ford site.
And it's not possible to make the most of this opportunity with business-, labor-, or governance-as-usual.
Can we rebuild manufacturing on a green path?
Can we revitalize our economy while we get in sync with our planet?
Manufacturing jobs powered by hydro, right here in St Paul, remain an exciting part of the answer.
Lynn Hinkle, who lives in Minneapolis five minutes away from the St. Paul Ford plant, is a recently retired UAW Local 879 official. He wrote the Ford green plant proposal and is currently co-chair of the state's plug-in hybrid electric vehicle task force. His e-mail address is: email@example.com