Wednesday, January 12, 2011

“Don’t Blame Us, Blame, uh, the Menu!”

Sometimes all it takes is an exposed thread.

Pull it enough and pretty soon you won’t be able to stop and the whole fucking skein unravels. After a whole afternoon of skullduggery, I’ve been able to chart the career of a corporate clown from right here in Massachusetts and this serves as a synechdoche for everything that is wrong with this country, starting with the trade imbalance and inability for experienced, trained and educated American workers to find a job that doesn’t involve picking up cow shit with their bare hands.

Let’s play Momento and start from the end and work our way backwards to the beginning, during which time I’ll tell you what led me down the rabbit hole that goes to (where else?) China. Regarding the trade imbalance, here’s a big reason for ours with Communist China:
According to Reed Electronics Group, by the end of 2005, China accounted for 16% of global electronics output, up from 6% in 2000 and under 3% in 1995. In the period from 1995 to 2005, electronics output in China rose from $28 billion to $210 billion. By contrast, electronics output in the United States reached $342 billion in 2005, up from $285 billion 10 years earlier.

“OK, not to rain on your parade, JP, but how is this newsworthy? Lots of corporations ship their jobs to China and overseas." And you’d be right but this is just the beginning and there’s one thing in common that runs through this whole skein. Now, for some particulars.

Way back in 2003, a Mountain View-based company named Spectra-Physics began shipping American jobs “expanding their international market” to Beijing, China. Here’s the problem: It’s one thing to expand your international market. It’s another thing to lay people off by the dozens while creating jobs overseas so you can have the same work done much more cheaply. That’s not “expanding your international market” but plain, cold-hearted greed.

(A grimly amusing sidebar: The journalist writing one of these articles states, “While layoffs are never good news, it is important to clarify that the layoffs had been planned for some time as a result of pre-announced outsourcing of particular product lines and technologies.” Oh, I’m sure that learning their jobs were already secretly axed by Spectra-Physics executives well in advance of their plans to outsource those peoples’ jobs to China came as a big relief to them while they had to suddenly restructure their finances and fear actual financial ruin.)

These past 30 years or so, Rochester, NY’s Kodak hasn’t been doing too well, either, laying off almost 60,000 workers since the early 80’s. Their CEO, George Fisher, got paid $11,000,000 back in 1995 after slashing tens of thousands of jobs so he and his fellow executive scumbags wouldn’t have to take a pay cut.

And, lest we forget, back in 1998, during these 60,000 layoffs, Kodak began outsourcing jobs to China, specifically to three failing companies it had taken over.

In 2003, AT Cross of Lincoln, Rhode Island laid off about 160 workers and began shipping jobs to China. In fact, the very pen commissioned and used by Barack Obama his first day in office was a Cross pen that was made in China and only decorated in the US. By 2006, they’d outsourced many manufacturing jobs to, you guessed it, China, so that its CFO, Kevin Mahoney, was crowing about their resurgent profits due to “restructuring in our manufacturing operations” (not to mention shipping US jobs to a Communist dictatorship, having wage slaves do the work for a tiny fraction of what a Rhode Island worker would have to get paid while still charging top dollar for their overpriced product line).

Lastly, we come to Evergreen Solar, based in Marlborough, Massachusetts a few miles from us. Since 2009, there have been grumblings that Evergreen Solar would take the $58,000,000 given to them by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, not including low-interest loans and a 30 year lease, and start laying people off. Well, yesterday, Evergreen announced they were shipping 800 American jobs to, you guessed it again, China (Wuhan, this time.). A little over a year ago, they forced a 10% pay cut on their employees in order to prevent layoffs then decided back in 2009 to lay off hundreds. They broke their promise to their employees and to the state of Massachusetts that had been so solicitous and generous toward them.

Their reason for laying off so many people is identical to AT Cross, Kodak and so many other American companies: The Chinese are selling their products at or below cost and we have to not only shrink by laying off thousands in order to survive, but instead of importing our products there, we have to make them there using local (and very, very cheap) labor. Don’t blame us, in other words, blame the infallible free market.

Now, you might ask, what do all these companies have in common? Well, they all employed a scumbag named Richard M. Feldt (here’s his executive profile) in one executive capacity or another. Well, Dick M.’s motto was “Dick ‘em” because every company he ever headed up or worked for wound up outsourcing jobs to China after laying off God knows how many hundreds if not thousands of workers. And, in the grand scheme of things, Feldt is still a piker compared to even bigger scumbags like GM’s Roger Smith and every other CEO or Chairman who threw tens of thousands of loyal American workers into the streets.

It’s notable that the very same month he scuttled out of his Evergreen office (just 6 days later, in fact), he smoothly moved into another executive suite with a company named Advanced Electron Beams that obviously hadn’t taken a very close look at his executive profile before welcoming him into their boardroom with wide open arms and the highest hopes he was going to turn them around. In the wake of wherever this man goes, layoffs, broken lives and the Chinese follow. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear this corporate cocksucker was a professional embedded mole for the US Chamber of Commerce.

So what got me started on this little investigation of Dick Feldt’s companies and his corporate track record?

It was a little rant that almost got by me on Craigslist. It was something about Evergreen Solar being gone from the state by the end of the quarter and that anyone going for a job there was a sucker.

I’m one of those suckers in a way.

I had answered a job ad on Craigslist from a company posing as Evergreen Solar and they emailed me last week to ask when they could call me. The email address even contained the words “evergreen solar” so I was convinced it was on the up and up. When I saw they had a facility in Marlborough, the next town south of me, I offered to drive down there and talk to her directly and she coldly replied that I should wait until I got her call.

She was interviewing by telephone for some positions in the very same Devens, Massachusetts plant that plans on 86ing 800 jobs by the end of the month after next. The woman called me yesterday, made some ridiculous offer that wasn’t really an offer and displayed no interest in my quality control background. The manufacturing job paid just $13 per hour, was in Devens and when I asked about health care, she told me I had to get it through the Mass Health Connector at my own expense (a quick look last year revealed that the smallest premium I could get was almost $80 a week, not including co-pays and deductibles). She desultorily said she’d forward my resume to a couple of managers who were hiring and that was that.

So when I read that little rant on Craigslist I started doing some investigating, starting with tracing the number I was called from yesterday. Turns out it’s a California-based temp agency called Advanced Technical Solutions and when I called the number back that’s what the voice mail greeting said. They’re dropping Evergreen Solar’s name about to fool people into thinking the company is hiring outright.

By today, I was probably the last person in the Bay State to realize these cocksuckers had been planning to skedaddle with almost $60,000,000 of state taxpayer money to make and keep jobs in Massachusetts and now, blaming the Free Market and economic conditions (namely, the Chinese making solar panels either at or even below cost), they’re giving Gov. Deval Patrick and at least 800 Massachusetts workers the finger as they start learning Chinese.

So my question is this: Why is a temp agency (and I haven’t even mentioned the equally shady involvement of Kelly Temps, who also are trying to hire people to work for this dying company) casting about for temp workers when 800 are scheduled to lose their jobs by the end of March?

And why is the mainstream media so complicit in whitewashing these stories and portraying these thousands of tragedies as mere market fluctuations and why aren't they taking a stand for the American worker?

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