Friday, December 02, 2005

No Joy for CCT Workers

It’s holiday time – time for the annual myths and warm fuzzies. We’ve paid homage to the Pilgrims; we’ve feasted, and perhaps spoken of gratitude. We’re heading toward Christmas, and folks will honor baby Jesus, Santa, and credit cards – the Christmas trinity. We will speak of the joy of the holiday season, even as many go into debt and spend time with relatives that make them want to slice their wrists. The joy of the holiday season is now irrevocably tied to one’s financial status.

Joy isn’t the word that folks who worked for Car Component Technologies (CCT) of Bedford will be using this year. The CCT plant in Bedford rebuilt axles for front wheel drive cars. They had a distribution center in Merrimack. CCT employed 560 people, who went to work on November 16, and were told they no longer had jobs. In NH, a company with over 100 employees is supposed to give 60 days notice before shutting down. Goodbye paycheck, goodbye health benefits – and hello to paychecks bouncing, vacation pay lost, and 401 (k)s being frozen. Oh – and happy holidays.

CCT’s parent company is American Remanufacturers Inc., based in Anaheim, CA. American Remanufacturers Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection/reorganization on November 7. There was nothing in their reorganization plan about closing plants or layoffs. CCT says they’ve been forced to close because they can’t compete with cheap Chinese imports. This means the employees are eligible for assistance under the federal Trade Act. This means that former employees will be eligible for additional weeks of unemployment, and up to $19,000 of training per person. The NH Congressional delegation is being asked to help speed this along.

The state has responded very quickly to this situation. The Department of Employment Security (DES) waived the waiting period for unemployment checks. They opened the Manchester office on a Sunday to help CCT workers. Other state agencies are helping folks apply for food stamps, and fuel assistance. Translation help is coming from the Latin American Center in Manchester. A large percentage of CCT employees speak Spanish, with smaller percentages of people who speak Bosnian or Arabic. Over 350 Thanksgiving dinner packages were handed out to former CCT employees, via the NH Food Bank, who were thrilled by the donations and support they received in the community.

To protect the interests of former CCT employees, at the behest of Governor Lynch, NH is intervening in the bankruptcy proceedings. Attorney General Kelly Ayotte and Labor Commissioner George Copadis filed an objection in the US bankruptcy Court in Delaware. The state wants to reserve $1.4 million to cover potential claims from workers, which would ensure they were protected ahead of the other creditors of American Remanufacturers Inc.

Some of the CCT employees had gone to work there after the closing of the Jac-Pac plant in Manchester in 2004. CCT had a practice of hiring families, so now, in some cases entire families are out of work. They were given no warning, in fact, at the plant on November 16, everyone was told there was nothing to worry about. One man was even given a promotion to management. An hour-and-a-half later the employees were told they no longer had jobs. Not only was there no warning, the employees were flat out lied to.

I trust most readers will see the irony in the re-training money offered up by the federal Trade Act, since it is trade policies which caused the whole situation. As NH moves further into a service economy, I can’t help but wonder what kind of jobs these folks can be trained for. Some companies have come forward to offer former CCT employees jobs; Stonyfield Yogurt, Freudenburg- NOK, and Wal-Mart among them. There is some irony there – since Wal-Mart is stocked primarily with items made in China. It’s also ironic that our Congressmen are being asked to help speed along the assistance from the Trade Act, at the same time they have both voted for the budget reconciliation, which will cut programs like food stamps and Medicaid. The cuts may not come in time to hurt the former CCT employees, but the next round of “free trade” casualties may not be so lucky.

Manufacturing jobs are disappearing fast, in the USA. GM and Ford are going to be closing plants and laying people off. It’s hard to feel too sorry for the companies, since they’ve essentially shot themselves in the foot by continuing to build big gas guzzlers. Companies like Toyota are still manufacturing in the US, but also opening new plants in Canada, because they have national health care. We are long overdue for a national discussion and evaluation of trade policy, economics, and health care. Unfortunately, it isn’t going to happen until many more people are hurt. No one really cares about the loss of $10 an hour manufacturing jobs in NH. When CEO’s begin to be affected, perhaps the conversation will begin.

“Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.” John Maynard Keynes

1 comment:

Blue Cross of California said...

I think national health care would be a great aspect to our health care system.