Today, Hershey closed down its Reading, PA plant after 23 years of production, and moved 300 jobs to Mexico. Teamsters President Jim Hoffa asked a good question, when are we going to tell these companies that enough is enough?
Teamsters President Jim Hoffa said, “That plant stood for decades in Reading, providing countless families with good wages and job security. Members of this community helped build that company and this is how they are repaid. Hershey’s actions are unconscionable in this economic climate. Pennsylvania lost nearly 60,000 jobs in the last quarter of 2008 and the estimate for the month was well over 30,000 jobs lost. When are we going to tell companies like Hershey that enough is enough?”
It is interesting that this occurs on the same week where Obama visited Canada, and changed his tune on NAFTA. On the campaign trail Obama suggested withdrawing from NAFTA, but this week he said that he wants to do things that will grow trade between the U.S. and Canada, “I provided Prime Minister Harper an assurance that I want to grow trade, not contract it.” Obama said that he wants to change NAFTA without hurting trade.
Hoffa asked a really good question. When is it enough? There isn’t much of a manufacturing sector in the United States, but I do give Obama credit for not selling the false bill of goods that other candidates have sold in the past, that he will bring the manufacturing sector back, but he can’t tell labor that he is against NAFTA while going to Canada and softening his tone. I don’t think that there is an easy answer here. I would expect more jobs to be leaving as state and local governments can no longer afford to give the generous tax cuts that have been used to lure these kinds of jobs in the past.
What Hershey did in Reading was morally wrong, but corporations are not moral creatures. They are judged strictly based on profits, and moving jobs to Mexico increases profits. Obama wants to replace these jobs through his green economic plan. If this works, expect labor to be very happy with him, but should the green jobs be slow to materialize, Obama and organized labor could be on a collision course that only the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act would prevent.