Plant Closing


The plant is closing. Just like that. Thirty years of dedication and hard work gone. Health care insurance gone. Pension? Who knows? Maybe that’s gone, too. They had to make the announcement right before Christmas, didn’t they? Merry Christmas! and go to . . . . Years ago, the company gave Christmas parties for all the men who worked on the line, the production line. Yes, men. They were all men then. The only women worked in the front office, as secretaries.

Didn’t he know that the work he was doing was damaging his body, ruining his health, and no doubt shortening his life? Yes, of course he knew it, but a man has to do. He’s a man, and he’ll do what it takes to provide for his family. But what can he do now? How can he be the man in his family, for his wife and kids? What will he leave for his grandkids? Hell, they still owe some on the mortgage. Will they lose their home, too?

The society has moved on, leaving him behind. Retrain, they say. He’ll soon be fifty. Who wants to train him, and for what? He didn’t go to college. He’s missing half a finger he lost to his job when something slipped, the safety guard that was supposed to protect his hand. He still doesn’t know how, but it surely did slip. His fault they said.

Competitive, that’s their word. The company has to stay competitive. That means shipping fabrication work out of the country, first to China and then, when that deal didn’t work, to Canada. Now, he guesses, it means shipping everything out, leaving behind a ghost town.

That and poison. Years ago, the company had so poisoned the creek that he couldn’t fish it in any more — no point. The tap water began to taste funny and only got worse. He’d almost gotten used to the smell in the air, but when he took the family on a vacation, it was there waiting for them when they returned. Well, at least he won’t have that problem any more; there won’t be any more vacations, except maybe one long one going nowhere.

But for all that – lost finger, stinky air, bad water, and body aches here and there, shortness of breath – he was a man. He did what he had to do and provided for his family. And there were good times. He could afford the food and beer for a big family reunion. He could put aside some savings and still buy his wife new clothes. He could hold up his head.

What now? Some on TV talk about the great economy. Yeah, right. Just great. Merry Christmas. And happy New Year to us.

One Comment on “Plant Closing

  1. Jim Richards

    This could have been written 40 years ago about the steel and auto industries on Pennsylvania. The goal of capitalism is to make money and distribute it to the shareholders of the companies and to the management. In our system the government plays an big role in the so called free market capitalism. Those with influence can change the rules of the game to favor one company or industry over another. In my own family history the Mack Truck Company for whom my mother worked was offered lower real estate tax in Maryland and so the company moved and dismissed most of their workers. Few were offered a job at the new site. Of course, this happened to Ford and General Motors and many other companies. Is this really capitalism? I think not. It is a rigged system where those with influence in the government can get special treatment. The Supreme Court in Citizens United exacerbated this problem by making the elected officials of the government even more influenced by corporate money. NAFTA and other trade deals are a way that government influences business in non competitive ways. That is to say that free trade is not really free in the sense that they must compete on their own abilities. It is easy to blame the workers for not being retrained into some replacement jobs that might exist. It is also easy to blame them for not saving for rainy day. It is easy to demean them for being on welfare or taking a handout. Why is it unspeakable to say the same about companies that buy influence from our elected officials? Big business is not immune from making very bad decisions. For example, Sears, Roebuck and Company’s business model was to buy stuff from many sources and sell that by mail order using a catalog. That is exactly the same business model of Amazon except Amazon’s catalog was the internet.. The problem for Sears is they missed the boat on using the internet leaving the door wide open for Amazon. Again, Amazon has benefited by cities trying to get their facilities by offering little or no real tax or other tax incentives. Do you think a city would offer no real tax for a mom and pop deli store to stay in the town? So folks, America is not a capitalistic country by any measure. How do we make an economy a even playing field? What we have now is not by any means an even playing field.

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