GM Willow Run workers, Dough and Kelly Arter with their daughters, Melissa (age 12) and Crystal (age 9)
GM's Willow Run: Trade Policy Hits Home
The Arter family of Belleville is one of thousands that will be left jobless when the General Motors Willow Run Assembly Plant closes in July . Kelly has worked at the Willow Run plant for 17 years and Doug, 13 years.
Their options for the future may include a transfer to another GM plant, job retraining (possibly paid for by GM), or looking for other types of work.
When asked why the Willow Run plant is closing, Doug Arter replied: "I feel the biggest reason is based on GM's long-term outlook. This plant is moving to Arlington, which is right next to Mexico.
"On Dec. 17, the day President Bush signed the Free Trade Agreement, GM announced it would stop manufacturIng many components in the U.S. They can do things cheaper in Mexico. Customers are getting the shaft and Mexican workers are getting exploited."
U.S. workers who lose their jobs because of trade liberalization do not tend to move up the job ladder to highwage, high-skill jobs;rather, they move down the ladder to lower-paying jobs, or fall off the ladder altogether, joining the ranks of the long-term unemployed.
On average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Displaced Worker Surveys, a displaced manufacturing worker takes about a ten percent cut in real pay - when he or she is lucky enough to find a new job at all.
- Thea Lee