A Failed System

I am hoping the loan for the auto industry comes through for the workers sake but I am also hoping the auto companies restructure realizing that it’s a new day where if you put people, quality and the environment first profits will follow.

The Elecpencil worked in a plant that closed after being owned by half a dozen companies in the 28 years I spent there. Every one of them mismanaged it because they only thought about profits. The auto companies of today reminded me of what I experienced. I wrote the following for the labor newsletter, Impact about my plant closing in 1999.

A Failed System

The barrel plant I worked in has had half a dozen owners in the almost 28 years I worked there. Every time an owner sold us he’d explain how it was no one’s fault the business failed. The first owner, United States Steel decided they could make more quick profit buying an oil company. This decision of short- term gain was no one’s fault; just the way American businesses operate. It was no one’s fault the next owner went bankrupt, he told us. It was just that the government had silly laws that prevented things like price fixing and mail fraud. Since it was hard for our executives to run the business from prison we were sold.

It surely wasn’t anyone’s fault the next owner failed. Ok, maybe he shouldn’t have spent a million dollars for equipment to make a new design barrel without finding out if customers would be interested in such a design. Or, maybe he should have listened to plant engineers who told him said design would never pass government safety tests. It didn’t but I suppose the bad guy once again was the government with its business hurting consumer safety standards.

The next owner said it was no one’s fault the plant was going under. He did admit maybe he should have hired a salesman to sell our product but he was trying to save money. It was no one’s fault he just didn’t realize a business has to have a sales force to get customers.

It was of course, we were told no one’s fault the current owner who was leasing us has now closed the plant. It was no one’s fault just his good fortune he got a great deal leasing us he couldn’t pass up. He used those two years he leased us, to close his other two plants six months each to modernize them. We were used to supply his customers while those plants were not operating. When those plants were retooled, we were no longer needed, so our plant was gutted and closed so we could never be sold to be a competitor to him. He explained it was no one’s fault we were closing, just economic circumstances. There weren’t enough customers for three plants.

Before he bought us we had won numerous container industry awards for making the best barrel in the world, something our workforce was proud of. Customers bought our barrels because they were not always the best price, but the best quality. Those customers all deserted us when our last employer leased us. They would not do business with him because he was known for putting out a cheap inferior product. So in the end we lost our customers, no one’s fault again we were told.

How odd that with all these businesses going under it was no one’s fault they failed. For one of these owners to admit fault would mean failure, a taboo subject for entrepreneurs. The government has all kind of protections like bankruptcy laws to come to the aid of inept businessmen to keep them from feeling like failures. The government has few safety nets for unemployed workers. If you’re jobless in America you’re made to feel like a failure.

The workers were the one constant in all these businesses going under, were we the real fault of the failures? I believe not, because with each new owner workers maintained the sweat, the insight, the skill and the hope things would turn around. On top of that with each new owner came a concessionary contract, in the end all the efforts and give backs in the world won’t make up for bad management. We workers did not fail; six employers failed. Our fifty employees are now unemployed while our former employers are off mismanaging new endeavors and so it is across America.

Labor is not failing; the truth is the capitalist system with its profit before people mentality is failing. It is a system based upon unrestrained short-term greed in which society bears all the long- term costs. In the end it is a system that will be punished not only for its sins but also by its sins.

Michael Moore is right on; The truth

The Wall St. Shuffle:10Cc

Capitalism funk song:Hart House

“The cure for capitalism’s failing would require that a government would have to rise above the interests of one class alone.” ~ Robert Heilbroner


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