May 23, 2007

Freightliner The Long Haul From North Carolina To Mexico

Last week Freightliner LLC announced that they will be cutting 1,528 production workers at its Cleveland, N.C. facility in July if orders don’t pick up by June 10th. This follows a March layoff of 1,180. The plant employs 4,000 and these layoffs represent 68% of the plants production workers. Also, another 478 people from its Mount Holly plant has been put on a temporary layoff.

From a
Charlotte Business Journal article (no author):

“The company said truck orders had dropped dramatically after the imposition of federal diesel-emissions standards and price increases for technology needed to deal with those changes.”

A Steve Huffman article, in the Salisbury Post, covers the walkout at the Cleveland plant on April 2.

“Union members had been threatening since last week to strike, though Whiteside said such action was "a last resort for fair bargaining." He said the strike was necessitated because company officials refused Monday to meet with union leaders.”

"This isn't about money," said Robert Whiteside, chairman of the bargaining committee for United Auto Workers Local 3520. "This is about health and safety. We're fighting for a way of life."

“Freightliner had previously announced that 1,180 workers would be laid off at the Cleveland plant by Sunday. The layoffs are based on seniority, with those hired after May 19, 2004, losing their positions.”

From a Holly Fesperman Lee article:

“According to Cindy Harris, a 17-year Freighliner employee, company officals sent out an automated message Monday night telling employees to come to work as usual Tuesday.”

“According to Harris, first shift workers wouldn't walk off the job because "they're threatening to fire the people if they walk out."

“David Crisco, barganing committee member, said he and other committee members went inside the plant to try to get word to first-shift workers that they couldn't be fired for walking off the job.”

“As union leaders walked through the plant, managers spotted them, told each member he was fired and escorted the men out of the plant's gates, Crisco said.”

"They're being held in there by fear...If they knew the truth, they'd be out here," he said.

How does the new plant being built in Mexico enter into this? Since management does not feel that business for new trucks will pick up until 2009, just prior to when the new 2010 EPA standards go into effect, their new $300 million plant being built in Saltillo, Mexico will be ready. This does not bode well for the prospects of the workers at the Cleveland plant being recalled.

Of course one has nothing to do with the other.

From a December 20, 2006
Freightliner LLC Press Release:

“…We expect another surge in customer demand in 2009 prior to the next round of EPA emissions regulations, and the construction of this new plant will ensure that we are fully prepared.”

“The Saltillo plant is the second Freightliner LLC manufacturing facility to be located in Mexico, joining the Santiago Tianguistenco plant which produces Freightliner-branded heavy- and medium-duty trucks…”

The writing is on the wall for the entire truck industry:

“…Five major U.S.-based OEM’s now have Mexican manufacturing capability, including Freightliner LLC,” said Roger Nielsen, Chief Operating Officer. “DaimlerChrysler has had excellent success in recent years with quality, cost and efficiency through our Mexican operations, and we fully expect the new plant in Saltillo to set benchmark standards for DaimlerChrysler Truck Group manufacturing facilities worldwide.”

North Carolina isn’t alone, Brent Hunsberger tried to insert a little humor (very little) into his article:

“The last Freightliner-branded commercial truck rolled off the production line in Portland Thursday night, catapulting 750 workers onto the unemployment rolls and into a job market that's suddenly cooler than a parked sleeper rig at dawn.”