Downtown Bureau

Siemens Factory to Shut Down

The Siemens factory on Sanford Ave will be shut down and over 500 well-paying jobs will disappear with it.

By Trey Shaughnessy
Published March 11, 2010

Westinghouse/Siemens ends its long relationship with Hamilton. The Siemens factory on Sanford Ave will be shut down and over 500 well-paying jobs will disappear with it.

Sadly, this will end a long term presence in Hamilton. Siemens purchased Westinghouse Electric in 1997. Subsequently, the Hamilton facility was modernized to manufacture 60 Hz gas turbines next to Westinghouse's former Canadian corporate head office on Sanford Ave.

Former Westinghouse Canadian Head Office
Former Westinghouse Canadian Head Office

Westinghouse originally manufactured air brakes for the booming rail industry, but over the years it evolved to make household appliances and in 1955 employed 11,000 people, second only to Stelco.

The 60 Hz turbine production will move to an existing manufacturing facility in Charlotte, NC. The company will invest $135 million in a new facility. Production of the 60 Hz turbines will start in the fall of 2011.

What does Charlotte have that Hamilton doesn't?

Charlotte is an expanding city with a healthy, diverse economy, including a hub of financial services. It represents a typical sunbelt sprawling automobile dependent city, but In 2007 it cut the ribbon on its light rail line, "The Lynx".

Charlotte Blue Line LRT: 'The Lynx'
Charlotte Blue Line LRT: 'The Lynx'

In 1994 Charlotte opened its football stadium in the city center, choosing that site over a suburb in Mecklen County, another option at the highway intersection of I-85 and US-74 in Gaston County, and another possible site near the NASCAR Lowes Motor Speedway.

Charlotte located its foodball stadium downtown
Charlotte located its foodball stadium downtown

Not all business decisions are made for purely financial reasons.

Trey lives in Hamilton with his family. He is co-owner of an advertising agency, and develops brand awareness and creative services for the entertainment and tourism industry. His essays have appeared in The Energy Bulletin, Post Carbon Institute, Peak Oil Survival, and Tree Hugger, and he has appeared on Toronto's Goldhawk Live. Trey volunteers with the London Chapter of The Council of Canadians.

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By Peter (anonymous) | Posted March 11, 2010 at 21:09:33

Damn. That's bad news to wake up to.

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted March 11, 2010 at 21:11:58

Trey

A couple of things you didn't mention, I85 runs through downtown Charlotte and the stadium is about two blocks from it. I pass by it a couple of times a years on my way to Florida. The light rail line is only about a kilometer long and only runs in the downtown.

The reason Siemens moved to Charlotte is because North Carolina is a right to work state where employees have very few rights and very limited ability to organize. It is an anti union utopia. Workers will take what they are given and if they don't like it too bad. Low wages and no benefits are the norm.

The decision to move had nothing to do with Hamilton and everything to do with lowering wages and maximizing profits on the backs of their employees.

Comment edited by bigguy1231 on 2010-03-11 20:12:50

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By Unemployed (anonymous) | Posted March 11, 2010 at 22:05:00

Momentum Schmomentum...city council last night was talking about a new publication called 'momentum' which probably cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce....Go tell these unemployed folks we have 'momentum' in the city!

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted March 11, 2010 at 22:33:26

This is very bad news, just what the city needs more unemployed workers. It is very sad to hear that down there in North Carolina that workers have limited ways of organizing, it is a drive to the bottom.

Equally disturbing news that we received yesterday, is this the fact the workers who see their EI exhausted and who may be forced onto the welfare system, will find themselves having to volunteer. It is disturbing that a certain organization with the blessing of Ontario Works can get employers to pay them $10.00 per hour, pay volunteers a stipend of $30.00 for an 8 hour day of work. The catch is that for every dollar earned it is penalized at 50%, thus making it almost impossible to break the welfare wall. It is already written into the Ontario Works Act 1997, that a worker does not have any rights under employment standards, which means they can force you into a low paying job, where you will not get paid for a number of weeks. So you can be a skilled worker, forced into an unskilled job and have no protecton was so ever. It is already a given the workers who work in the precarious job market have a really hard time getting their rights under employment standards enforced. It can take up to two years just to get wages that have not been paid.

My concerns are related to Occupational Health and Safety and WSIB. What if the worker gets injuried, since they are not employees, then that are not entitled to any protection under the law. So what if a worker say lost a hand, will they only get a few hundred dollars from an insurance policy and told that is life, too bad for you.

Labour activists in this city need to start working together to educate the public about this indentured slave labour.

The poverty industry in action, those who make good money, entitled to benefits and pensions, yet they step on other workers and deny them the most basic rights under Labour Law.

Comment edited by grassroots are the way forward on 2010-03-11 21:35:32

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 02:36:35

I85 runs through downtown? Okay? Google map it. It's ring road through the suburbs.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 03:28:48

"The move is expected to create 825 engineering and manufacturing jobs in Charlotte within five years, paying an average wage of almost $64,000 a year. Production in the expanded plant is scheduled to start in the fall of 2011, the company said."

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 07:39:21

the Lynx is a 10-km long light rail line with 15 stations....FYI

http://charmeck.org/Departments/CATS/LYN...

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By Mo - Mentum (anonymous) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 08:20:05

I got one of those Momentum booklets from City Mall and it sure boasts a lot - but has no substance. All flash - the custom 25 degree forward diecut must've cost thousands to engineer. FAIL.

One statement stood above all though - "Creative Industries - Where the cool kids are!"

What?

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 09:01:35

where can this momentum brochure be found? I live in one of the downtown postal codes that doesn't receive stuff like that from the city or the Spec.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 09:52:05

"Creative Industries - Where the cool kids are!"

Oh God, how embarrassing. Whose idea was that?

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 10:02:52

Sorry Jason, you're wrong about the Lynx. I read on the intertubes that it was only 1km long, and since I read that before I read your "correction", I can't believe you.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 10:31:29

@Brandon upvoted because I'm pretty sure you're being facetious, but just in case...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LYNX_Rapid_...

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 11:04:01

According to your link, the LYNX is over 15km long, so Jason, was wrong!

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By schmadrian (registered) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 11:13:53

I shared this article with a friend in NC. She sent me this link: (http://www.wral.com/business/story/7216921/)

(Note the mention of Hamilton.)

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By jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 11:55:31

The light rail line is only about a kilometer long and only runs in the downtown.

You're nailing it over in the stadium thread but this, I just had to laugh. A 1km light rail line would be what, 2 stops?

Maybe that's just as far as they got before the vast majority of taxpayers united in protest and put a stop to construction because they couldn't make left turns onto side streets?

Comment edited by jonathan dalton on 2010-03-12 10:56:14

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By LRT for mayor (anonymous) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 12:05:58

"State and local governments promised up to $35 million in tax breaks and grants. A county development entity is also prepared to lend Siemens up to $120 million in low-interest loans, with funding coming from bonds created by last year’s federal stimulus package.

Siemens said the move to Charlotte was in part driven by a need to be closer to customers. Siemens-built power plants supply one-third of North America’s electricity, the company said."

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 16:44:09

Grants similar to what McQuinty is offering Mitsubishi ? to build power plants in Ontario?

Global economy... is Siemens going to move its plant every time they finish a job for a client? Being close to your customers hasn't been relevant since globalization.

The Lynx is 15km long with 15 stations http://charmeck.org/Departments/CATS/LYN...

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 21:31:16

"I85 runs through downtown? Okay? Google map it. It's ring road through the suburbs."

Should have said I77, thats the road that runs through downtown North to South.

Just an aside, when refering to the map I noticed how many of Charlotte's downtown streets are one way. Looks alot like the streets in downtown Hamilton.

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By Anders (registered) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 21:36:15

$35 m in tax breaks and $130 m loans, let's say that's another 5 m per year in lost interest...how much are they paying per worker for 825 jobs? 50000 upfront and 6000 per year after that? Honestly that really does sound like a financial decision Trey, even if my math is way off. Their reasoning sounds like pure bs, but the money doesn't.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 21:49:06

I think it's a money issue too. As soon as I heard the news I mentioned to some others that many US states are allowed to bonus and they offer massive subsidies to any plant they can get their hands on. We offer some subsidies here, but nothing like what they do in the US. And it's illegal to "bonus" in Canada.

They sure do a good job down there of convincing the public that their country is some bastion of free market enterprise and Canada is mere inches away from becoming a socialist state.

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By Anders (registered) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 22:00:07

It's because government is wasteful and business is efficient. When they are massively bankrolled by the government.

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By Marx (anonymous) | Posted March 13, 2010 at 09:51:43

We are a socialist state...and that is never good for attracting business....massive social welfare programs, unaffordable government entitlement programs, social housing that attracts quasi criminals...Bratina is right by the way in wanting to shine a light on these issues...and a city that chases away any sniff of progress...we are our own worst enemies so when facories leave, we have only ourselves to blame.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted March 13, 2010 at 12:21:12

So if it is a money issue and not a quality of life issue at all? Then I suppose we continue to let it happen, and cry "no fair". A money/grant issue is an easier problem to fix, McQuinty get on it.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 13, 2010 at 12:48:45

oh, don't get me wrong. I'm sure it's also a quality of life issue too, but money rules.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 13, 2010 at 13:15:29

Quality of life might be an issue for creative industries, by I doubt very much it played into Siemens' decision. This was purely a numbers game. But to the extent that quality of life matters, 'entitlement' programs like health care and public education that our friend 'Marx' rails against, have a much bigger impact on QOL than LRT and downtown stadiums.

Comment edited by highwater on 2010-03-13 12:17:20

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By Anders (registered) | Posted March 13, 2010 at 19:41:41

and while I don't know anything about Charlotte I would be willing to bet there's a pretty big chunk of that population in poverty and/or in prison.

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By schmadrian (registered) | Posted March 13, 2010 at 19:50:42

"and while I don't know anything about Charlotte..."

That's a really good place to stop.

Seriously.

I swear, sometimes the level of discourse here gets incredibly shameful.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted March 13, 2010 at 23:50:55

According to Siemens the move was triggered by low to non existent sales in Canada and growing sales in the USA. Evidently a citizens group just managed to stop a natural gas powered electric generating plant from being built. Not exactly sure where but I believe it was Mississauga. These are the type of installations that buy Siemens turbines and Ontario has decided not to go that route.

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By Anders (registered) | Posted March 14, 2010 at 00:02:10

ok I could have made my point better: that we don't know a lot about quality of life in Charlotte if we're going to say companies are leaving here for there. Is that better/ less shameful?

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 14, 2010 at 07:51:46

Not exactly sure where but I believe it was Mississauga. These are the type of installations that buy Siemens turbines and Ontario has decided not to go that route

It was Oakville, the NIMBY capital of the world, and it only means it won't get built in Oakville. It's still going to be built.

Markets are global. Siemens is blowing smoke.

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By schmadrian (registered) | Posted March 15, 2010 at 09:30:28

Anders:

I'm really not sure what it is you're trying to say. You make a statement about an area after admitting you know little about it, what you state is, at the very least inflammatory...and then follow up with "...we don't know a lot about quality of life in Charlotte if we're going to say companies are leaving here for there."

Huh?

You're contributing to a discussion, one that's taking place on what can easily described as the most amazing information resource imaginable, the WWW...and you're still feeling a little impotent regarding being able to form a qualified opinion? Ten minutes' worth of research about Charlotte would have helped you get closer to that Holy Grailish notion, a 'qualified opinion'. Crime rates. Poverty rates. Standard of living, local economic issues... It's all there. Google it.

It's incredible; so much mud is slung about here at politicians being uninformed. And yet RTH readers seem loaded for bear when it comes to launching a diatribe when they themselves haven't done any homework.

We're all better than this. Everything we need to be better informed is right here, in the background, ready to be accessed. There's no need to be tossing stuff about that's insulting to the people involved, to their neighbours, to everyone else here on this site. Disparate opinion? Cool; let's hear it. Vitriolic disagreement? Great! Let 'er rip! But come on; if you're going to declare something that is NOT subjective, then at least show some respect for all those involved. Including yourself. (I shudder to think about how Hamilton could be talked about by outsiders in this way...although I know all the pro-Steeltowners here would be up in arms and ready to burn effigies.)

As for the 'quality of Life' element of this situation: it was a BUSINESS DECISION. Siemens is looking after its own concerns. Is anyone surprised? We live in a free-market, capitalist system. People engage in it to benefit themselves. (All of us included.) If we're going to discuss the evils of corporate strategies, fine. But let's be really clear on what discussion we're having, because when conflation of topics unfolds here on RTH, nothing is gained. In fact, it sets us back tons.

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By Anders (registered) | Posted March 15, 2010 at 10:22:49

Ok first of all: brevity. Second: if I cared about Charlotte I would have researched it. My point is simple: Trey's very good article talks about a few features of Charlotte that might make a company leave here for there. I can appreciate his frustration about the absence of these things in Hamilton, but I don't think that gives enough of a picture about quality of life there overall to say these things, and I was pointing to a few issues common to many American cities that may also come into play. Based on that you have gone off on a jeremiad (google that if you will) about discourse and research and self-respect, etc which is completely uninteresting to me.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted March 15, 2010 at 11:15:41

Wait a minute???

So you're telling me that if you don't invest in your City with things that successful Cities have (higher order/rapid public transit, successful downtowns, pedestrian-driver equality), then Companies will not only; a) Not Choose your City to do business, but will b) Up-and-Leave completely?

PREPOSTEROUS! (sarcasm alert)

Quick Question??? What has EcDev been doing the last 4 years?? Renaming Business Parks to Highway Names in order to attract a bread factory?

Man, if I was that bad at my job (one win in 4 years), I'd been fired YEARS ago!

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By Really? (registered) | Posted March 15, 2010 at 11:19:13

Side Note:

Can someone please forward that photo (Old Westinghouse H.O. Bldg) to as many Toronto-area (or outside-Hamilton) developers?? (That is not Harry Stinson)

This needs to be converted to Lofts ASAP! It's been declining quicker over the last couple years and needs HELP NOW!

Comment edited by Really? on 2010-03-15 10:19:34

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted March 15, 2010 at 12:03:57

Wow, people gong back and forth about issues. The plain and simple fact of the matter to me at least and those workers who are affected is the loss of good paying jobs.

Yes, just what the city needs more unemployed people, more stress added to already stressful situation in the city. No jobs to replace the jobs lost. In the spec today, there was more news that Steel Car will most likely be laying off more workers when their contract for rail cars ends, yet many of these workers will not be able to collect EI because they will not have enough hours, thus leaving them with WELFARE, which we all know is easy street, SARCASISM FOLKS.

Anyways I looked or researched Charlotte and I found out that it has the second largest coca cola bottling plant. this company has engaged in nasty policies, in killing those workers in another countries which try to organize

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjEHMtrGd...

Free market, capitalism is that what people are calling it, I would call it a drive to the bottom, why should a corporation which has lots of money, the wealth created by the sweat of workers being able to access loans from public dollars and given the right not to pay taxes.

Who Killed Canada

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60F2bpWQr...

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted March 15, 2010 at 12:04:38

Hey Really, I agree that saving this building should be a priority. Interesting that the bloated banks on Bay St will never back the financing of redevelopments in Hamilton. Harry Stinson's failed attempts in this city has just higlighted the fact that in N. America, we have allowed financial institutions to grow at the expense of manufacturing. There are no more safeguards for workers in our country, and therefore, limited returns on investing in this city. Siemens is going to Carolina because the US Wagner Act is a joke, and the right to organize is a "shiny artifact of the past" (to quote Cohen). Meanwhile, US Steel, is belching out benzene and benzo(A) pyrene in its coking operation, claiming that global financial conditions are responsible for its decision to halt steel production here. It makes me want to puke when I see 20 cars in the parking lot at Stelco, and meanwhile, the lots are overflowing at Juravinski. Its time to shut down this Cancer Factory unless they (a) start making steel, and (b) immediately reduce harmful emissions. I will be at the Siemen's protest on Thursday, because people need to know that it is morally wrong to shut down a factory that is productive. Secondly, my wages as a member of the teacher's union are a direct result of the bargaining done by skilled workers in the past...

It's coming from the silence
on the dock of the bay,
from the brave, the bold, the battered
heart of Chevrolet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted March 15, 2010 at 12:18:11

Good point, Henry & Joe. We all knew shit was goin to hit the fan when the Americans bought Stelco.

This whole thing reeks of Protectionism to me!

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By Son of a factory worker (anonymous) | Posted March 15, 2010 at 12:47:27

"sprawling on the fringes of the city,
in geometric order,
an insulated border,
in between the bright lights and the far unlit unknown"

Perhaps City Council can move quickly to allow more Wal-marts to be built in Hamilton. There are few farms that haven't been developed yet. Instead of a focus on developing employment lands, Hamilton continues to build cookie-cutter subdivisions further and further away from what used to be the heart of the city and the one-dimensional stupid-centres to temporarily house the foreign-made disposable crap that we use once and send to the landfill.

My dad worked at the Westinghouse motor plant until it shut down in the 90s. That was the beginning of the end of Hamilton as an industrial centre. I would love to see the rebirth of industrial jobs in Hamilton, but it may be time that we all realize that the future of Burlington Street is a massive brownfield redevelopment unlike anything Canada has ever seen. Maybe it's time that we tear down the abandoned cancer factories that Henry and Joe mentioned above.

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted March 15, 2010 at 13:12:37

One of the things I have always admired about Hamilton is that it is a town with 'real' jobs. People who make things. How many 'things' does Hamilton still make? And if all these jobs go, what affect will it have on Hamilton's image and identity?

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 15, 2010 at 15:38:07

Really? don't waste your time re: the old Westinghouse building. A plan was developed years ago to turn it into lofts and the city rejected the application because it was next door to a factory. (forehead slap)

As if we needed city hall to tell prospective buyers that their unit is located in the industrial heartland of Canada next to factories and there might be some noise/smells etc.....

Instead of treating possible buyers as grown-ups the city killed the project, and probably sealed the fate of that building. Granted, this is going back many years and as we all now know, there won't be a factory next door for very long so maybe someone has a window of opportunity to do something there. Good luck though.

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By MattJelly (registered) - website | Posted March 16, 2010 at 01:55:45

more jeremiads please

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted March 16, 2010 at 09:42:35

Hey Lorenzo,

who is that jeremiad comment directed at? I don't think I'm being overly pessimistic when I say that US Steel is poisoning the air, and providing no jobs (approx 4 X the industry average of benzene). Randle Reef is not imaginary either. That pile of cole tar crap is not going anywhere. Of course, we aren't the only ones to suffer. General Electric destroyed the Hudson River with 650 000 kg of PCBs. I just feel that it is time for us to demand action on these issues.

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By Please We Need Change! (anonymous) | Posted March 16, 2010 at 14:25:36

" A plan was developed years ago to turn it into lofts and the city rejected the application because it was next door to a factory."

Well now the factory is leaving, perhaps there's no longer an excuse, though I'm sure Councillor Morelli can find a reason to keep Ward 3 on it's downward slide.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted March 16, 2010 at 16:13:32

Never mind lofts, what about affordable housing for those that struggle. Affordable housing is desparately needed in this community.

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By zookeeper (registered) | Posted March 16, 2010 at 20:22:01

^ We need both.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted March 16, 2010 at 20:50:32

Rally to be held for the workers Thurs March 18 at noon. This affects our community as a whole, we all need to support each other.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted March 19, 2010 at 12:14:58

"Its time to shut down this Cancer Factory unless they (a) start making steel, and (b) immediately reduce harmful emissions." - Henry and Joe

I couldn't agree more!

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted March 20, 2010 at 20:06:50

Two things virtually every working class person understands about the globalized era:

a) Nobody who works in a job that competes directly with multinational corporations is safe. b) Nobody who works for a big multinational corporation is safe.

This isn't just some coffee-shop-intellectual economic theory. Some of my best friends work in non-union manufacturing plants in the area. And everybody there feels the constant threat of simply shutting down and moving production elsewhere. Bay street economists can claim all they like that globalization is going to help everyone, but for the hordes of skilled workers who've been laid off and had to re-apply for their old jobs as temps, this is a horrifying reality.

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