This afternoon, I joined St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and other local officials at a Chrysler Plant in Fenton as guests of the UAW to talk about a plan by Chrysler to shutter one of its plants here next month. Earlier this month, Chrysler laid off a shift in another local auto plant.
Closing the South plant means that 2,400 people - families - drawing paychecks here in St. Louis will have to find new jobs. Cutting a shift has idled hundreds more people. And that’s just the rock tossed in the pond. The ripples will be everywhere: in St. Louis restaurants, in stores and malls, in theaters, at galleries, at sports venues, in the Sunday collection plate, at charities, and in neighborhoods with houses for sale. At a thousand other St. Louis businesses not called “Chrysler” people are also going to be hurting.
I strongly agree that building fuel efficient cars, such as hybrids and plug-in electrics, is the direction the American auto industry ought to follow. That’s what Americans are going to want to buy. I strongly disagree, however, that laying off the best-trained, hardest working, most productive workforce in the company is the way to start off any new day at Chrysler.
I know that most of the people working at Chrysler here will find new jobs. They are too skilled, too dedicated, and too valuable not to be a part of our regional and national economy. I have asked the City’s director of training and employment to work - and to work harder - with any City residents working at Chrysler to bring to bear every available resource to get them working fast at good jobs again,
(I know that what is happening here in the St. Louis region is happening in communities all over the country. That’s one reason I am supporting Barack Obama, whose presidential campaign had asked me to represent him at the rally. Sen. Obama supports open markets for the cars you make and for the goods and services other American workers provide, but he says he will amend NAFTA so that it works for American workers, not against you. And Sen. Obama will reward companies that keep jobs in St. Louis and in America instead of sending them to other countries.)