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Synthesis/Regeneration 6   (Spring 1993)

Watching American Workers Lose Their Jobs

by Perry Molens, International Union of Electical Workers

I work at Emerson Electric. Many know about Emerson Electric. They got into a little trouble with the government a few years ago by selling $200 and $300 hammers and switching parts. They were hit with a several million dollar fine. So they changed our name to Esco and said they didn't do it. So basically, we're Esco Electric now. A few years back they moved some of our work to Mexico. Prior to that they were moving a lot of our work to right-to-work states. We were having ongoing battles with them over it. Needless to say, they won.

Then the Mexican syndrome came into effect. Where once there were areas that held several hundred workers, now you can walk on the B and C shifts in the early mornings and late evenings and there's nothing but aisles and aisles of emptiness. Rooms with no people in them. The lights are still on. The fixtures are still there. The work and the people are gone.

When Emerson decided to move the jobs to Mexico, there were certain criteria that had to be met by the people in Mexico. In order to be hired you had to be a female, not over 24 years of age. The prospective employee must not have over two children and those children could not be younger than six years of age. Upon meeting these requirements, her wages would be 60 cents an hour and the benefit package: a free lunch.

The above information was discovered by a custodian whose job it was to shred memos. He brought this memo to my attention. I took it to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and it became public record.

A year and a half ago we had nearly 1400 workers. Today we have less than 400. The people I worked with for several years, have faced grim economic times. Now some of them have no jobs, no phones (which makes it even more difficult to secure a job). Some have moved in with another family. Others have found jobs at five bucks an hour or four bucks an hour. I could not live on four bucks an hour at this point. Many of the people who have ended up earning four bucks an hour are not surviving. They're making it with the help of friends and others. And the places they've gone to, now they're talking of moving to Mexico.

The union, we can help them. These jobs that are being taken to Mexico are going to affect us all in the long run. If things don't change and we don't move to protect our jobs, we will find ourselves the new Mexico. If that's not what we want for our children, then we're heading in the wrong direction. We need to stop it.

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