Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

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Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

Let's talk...

Let's talk...

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Ford may review truck plant closure plans, Coleman says

Two news stories, two approaches towards plant closings:

One headline reads:

Ford may review truck plant closure plans, Coleman says

Another headline blazes:

CAW boss disappointed after meeting with GM on plant closure, considers strike, other options

Obviously this closing of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant is far from the “done deal” that many, including the Minnesota AFL-CIO, Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, the UAW leadership and others have proclaimed as an excuse for not uniting working people in a struggle to save the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant and hundreds of jobs.

The time has come for Minnesota DFL State Senator James Metzen to boldly step forward pushing to pass S.F. 607 now!

It is time for the leaders of UAW Local 879 to fully mobilize the retired and active workers, flex their political muscle, and demand pay-back from the MN DFL for many years of loyal support.

The MN DFL has slavishly and shamefully been manipulated by the architects, contractors, bankers and real-estate speculators along with reactionary leaders of the building trades unions who have piggishly put a few jobs for their own members before the rights of autoworkers to continued employment and the welfare of the local community and the economy of our state.

Republican Norm Coleman opportunistically got involved in this issue to try to take the wind out of the sails from the huge Obama rally. However, what Coleman has done is reignite what we all know are the feelings of the vast majority of the people who want to see this plant kept opened.

If Ford won’t keep the plant open now; then, as we have been saying, public ownership is the only solution to saving this plant.

Working people should not be relying on Norm Coleman and the Ford Motor Company to keep this plant operating… this plant can easily and cheaply be re-tooled to produce many other socially necessary and useful products--- from the components for rail to electric or solar or wind generating equipment to making a product making hydro-electric generating plants more productive and efficient or even manufacturing hi-technology systems to bring fresh water to millions of people languishing from drought around the world to pollution control equipment to retrofit a vast assortment of polluting industries... what can be produced in the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant is only limited by our imaginations to turn production in this country towards meeting the needs of people and our living environment rather then seeing production which now takes place with the sole motivation of expanding the bottom line of the Wall Street coupon clippers.

The time has come to take the concept of "people before corporate profits" from mere rhetoric to reality in a way that creates a better life for working people and all of humanity.

Look, let’s be frank; a factory is a factory--- only a fool would destroy this kind of wealth embodied in the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant by taking a wrecking ball to it; workers don’t care what they produce, just so they continue getting a pay-check. Obviously, there are products which could be produced that are more socially useful and beneficial than others--- but, right now, our goal is to save hundreds of union jobs by saving this plant. If Ford doesn’t want to continue production, that is their problem--- our problem is to see that workers continue producing in this plant.

It is time for those like Norm Coleman who talk about “democracy” to bring Ford workers and Minnesotans who have subsidized this operation for over eighty-years into the decision making process. Up until now, politicians like Norm Coleman and Mayor Coleman have maneuvered to prevent working people and tax-payers from having a say in the decision-making process so fundamental to democracy.

It is shameful that Norm Coleman would opportunistically raise expectations about keeping this plant open for his own self-serving political reasons while leaving the final decision on the future of this plant to a bunch of greedy, exploiting parasites and Wall Street coupon clippers operating behind closed doors in Ford’s Detroit corporate boardroom.

It is time to bring the decision-making process over the future of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant to Minnesota--- where it belongs: with Ford workers and tax-payers having the final say.

The response from United States DFL Congresswoman Betty McCollum is equally as shameful as Norm Coleman’s self-serving attempt to use this issue as she belittled Coleman’s efforts instead of offering to join him and by bringing pressure to bear on State Senator Jim Metzen to get S.F. 607 through his Senate Committee on Business, Industry and Jobs which is dominated by the DFL over Republicans--- eleven to seven.

Which brings me to wonder if Coleman is really sincere; why doesn’t he pressure the seven Republicans on this Committee to get behind passing this very straight-forward piece of legislation which brings the decision–making process into Minnesota?

Why DFL Congressman James Oberstar and his staff of displaced iron ore miners has been in hiding every time this issue is brought forward needs to be explained, also; perhaps Peter Makowski would like to explain?

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar’s Iron Range staff member, Jerry Fallos, has been shamefully silent, too.

The Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party state convention is underway in Rochester this weekend… what will we hear from the Minnesota DFL on where it stands on the future of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities assembly Plant?

In the past, James Oberstar has mesmerized convention delegates with his outstanding oratory of “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs;” will Congressman Oberstar have the moral and political courage to open his big mouth in defense of the jobs of Ford workers… which is also a defense of his constituents in the iron ore mines and taconite industry.

It is also time for Canadian and U.S. autoworkers to join hands in searching for solutions to the issues involved in these plant closures... combining the militancy and left-wing thinking of Canadian auto workers with cross-border calls for public ownership of these auto plants and/or nationalizations of the entire industry could prove to be a very powerful force for real change, which someone might want to talk to Barack Obama about; Canadian NDP leader Jack Layton should be up for this discussion.

Let's get former Manitoba NDP Premier Ed Schreyer involved in helping us in finding a solution to saving these auto plants... he managed to save a huge bus plant and hundreds of jobs in Manitoba... we could use his help here in Minnesota. Is anyone curious about how Premier Ed Schreyer, with help from the Communist Party of Canada-Manitoba, saved the bus plant in Winnipeg?

CAW leader Buzz Hargrove might want to consult with Ed Schreyer and the leaders of the CAW in Manitoba, too, in looking for a solution to keeping auto plants open. His sleazy affair with Liberalism hasn't seemed to pay off in saving a single job.

Ford may review truck plant closure plans, Coleman says

By KEVIN DIAZ, Star Tribune

June 6, 2008

WASHINGTON - Sen. Norm Coleman left a meeting with Ford Motor Co. officials Friday expressing optimism that the automaker will review its decision to close the plant in St. Paul that makes the Ranger pickup.

"I'm not raising any false expectations; all I've done is raise the curtain," Coleman told reporters during a conference call from Detroit.

"We'll see if it's fruitful or not."

The Minnesota Republican said he was given no time frame for the review. Ford plans to shutter the plant in September 2009, and Coleman acknowledged that "nothing's been changed, as of right now."

But he said that Ford officials told him that the changing vehicle market responding to $4-a-gallon gasoline is prompting sweeping reviews of operations, including the future of the Ranger, a medium-size pickup that is made exclusively at the plant in St. Paul's Highland Park neighborhood.

"It was clearly expressed to me that Ford is looking at all aspects of their operations," including the company's plans to close the plant, Coleman said. "That decision is being looked at. It is being reviewed."

Ford spokeswoman Angie Kozleski said Friday that the plan to close the plant has not changed, but that all operations are under review. "We are aggressive in lining up our capacity with demand, and are examining all areas of our business," she said.

Coleman flew to Detroit on Thursday, a day after he wrote Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally, asking that the company review its decision about the truck plant. Coleman noted that Ranger sales have increased this year, as car buyers move away from bigger and heavier sport-utility vehicles and pickups.

Coleman met Friday with Joseph Hinrichs, Ford's vice president for global manufacturing, and Curt Magleby, the company's director of government relations. He said the meeting came at "an opportune time," in light of two recent industry reports praising the Ranger and the plant where it is built.

On Wednesday, a J.D. Power survey ranked the Ranger second in its market segment for quality. On Thursday, a Harbour report ranked the St. Paul plant first in productivity.

"The [1,000] workers of the Ford plant should feel very proud of what they're doing," Coleman said.

Coleman, who has been criticized for not including other Minnesota politicians in his overtures to Ford, said he would talk Friday with Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a fellow Republican. He also said that he plans to talk with some Democrats.

"There are internal things that Ford has to do," Coleman said. "The good news is that all options are on the table."

CAW boss disappointed after meeting with GM on plant closure, considers strike, other options

By TOM KRISHER , Associated Press

June 6, 2008

DETROIT - The Canadian Auto Workers could strike or take other action against General Motors Corp. because the company won't budge on plans to close an Ontario pickup truck factory, the union's president said Friday.

Buzz Hargrove said the automaker committed to keeping the Oshawa plant open in a contract agreement on May 15. But earlier this week, GM said it would close the plant in 2009. It employs 2,600 hourly and 300 salaried workers.

After meeting with GM CEO Rick Wagoner on Friday in Detroit, Hargrove said the company wouldn't change its latest stance.

"We're walking away incredibly disappointed," he said. "We still feel betrayed."

GM said it can idle factories if market conditions warrant. In May, U.S. pickup sales fell more than 38 percent, and the company has said the market declined more rapidly than expected last month.

Detroit-based GM announced Tuesday it was closing Oshawa and three other pickup truck and sport utility vehicle factories as $4 per gallon gas has caused sales to tumble.

Union officials described the 90-minute meeting as tense. Hargrove said the CAW would decide its next move after its national convention later this month. Other moves could include arbitration, legal action or filing a complaint with Canada's labor board, he said.

A union blockade of GM's Oshawa offices will continue, union officials said.

Hargrove said market conditions haven't changed in the 2 1/2 weeks since GM agreed to the new three-year deal with the CAW.

"We haven't seen any evidence of that whatsoever," he said, adding that gasoline prices haven't changed since then.

Hargrove said the union has time to decide its next move because the plant isn't scheduled to close until 2009.

"They made a clear-cut commitment on the truck plant" to keep it open and invest in it, he said.

Wagoner told Hargrove and other union officials there was some promise of new products for the Oshawa car plant, Hargrove said. But the CAW president said that wasn't good enough.

Chris Buckley, president of the union local at the truck plant, said GM wrecked any trust it had with the union.

"They fractured the relationship severely," he said.

GM spokesman Stew Low said the factory commitments in the CAW contract are contingent upon board approval, market conditions and making a viable business case.

At the time of negotiations, GM still believed that the slumping pickup market could recover, Low said. Since then, the the trend away from trucks to cars has accelerated, he said.

"We're not in a situation where this is a cyclical type of economic condition where we can wait it out," he said. "We think it's a fundamental shift."

The decision to cease production at the four plants, including Oshawa truck, was made just a few days before Tuesday's announcement and after the bargaining was concluded, he said.

"We absolutely bargained in good faith," Low said.

Oshawa truck was picked for idling because it makes high-end pickups with more expensive options, a segment of the market affected severely by the sales decline, Low said.

Low said GM committed during contract talks to build a second car at the Oshawa car plant, and is looking at a third because the plant is flexible enough to build several models. He would not say what models.

The union's office blockade has forced GM employees to work from their homes, Low said.

GM shares fell 83 cents, or 4.9 percent, to $16.22 Friday after sinking to a 52-week low of $16.20 earlier in the session.