Large corporations are often so huge that it is difficult to get one’s head around their size and their influence. General Electric, for example, has 304, 000 employees world wide. Many of their divisions manufacture things overseas for sale to other countries.
Only about 133,000 employees are still employed here in the United States. Most of the employees here in the U.S. make pretty good money and many belong to unions. CEO Jeffrey Immelt has said that he will now bring jobs back to the United States but at the same time he said that he created several thousand jobs in Brazil.
In Fort Smith, Arkansas, Whirlpool corporation laid off about 1800 workers in mid-201 after other layoffs of up to about 5,000 workers over the last several years. Whirlpool is the largest appliance maker in the world. They encompass brand names like Kenmore, sold at Sears, Roebuck, Amana, Maytag, Jenn-Aire and many other brand names. They have approximately 71,000 employees of which only about 23,000 are located in the United States.
Headquartered in Benton Harbor, Michigan, just east of Chicago and north of Indianapolis, since 1911, their recent layoffs in Arkansas should not come as a surprise. Those jobs in Arkansas were once in Michigan. They were moved to Arkansas because people in Arkansas worked for less money than people did in Michigan. Why? Because an entire generation of lobbyists for industry had persuaded the average citizens that unions were bad for society. Labor unions stood up for their workers. So Whirlpool went where there are no labor unions but a lot of cheap labor.
So no one should be surprised about what Whirlpool did in Arkansas. But perhaps the numbers might be interesting. The average Whirlpool worker in Fort Smith, Arkansas was not getting rich or wealthy or even climbing into the middle class. They were making, as we understand it, $17 per hour, or $680 per week or $34,000 per year. That is about $14,000 less than the approximate average annual wage here in the U.S.
So Whirlpool could not afford to pay workers even a salary roughly halfway between poverty level and the middle-income of American workers. Even though the company made $177 million in the third quarter of 2011 alone. Is that good? Well, if 124% improvement in profit is good, (in other words more than doubling your income in one year) then they are doing pretty damned well in a bad economy. Of course, the layoffs of the 1800 people in Fort Smith will add another $60 million to that number.
So, Whirlpool and its stockholders will share in about $700 billion additional profits this year as the workers in Benton Harbor, Michigan and Fort Smith, Arkansas look for jobs.
Corporations are beholden to their stockholders. And who are the Whirlpool stockholders? One is Representative Fred Upton, heir to a great deal of Whirlpool stock from the company his grandfather built. Fred Upton is the House of Representatives member from the district that encompasses the Whirlpool headquarters in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
Fred Upton does pretty well. But Fred Upton wants more, and he wants you to have less. Here’s how well Fred Upton is doing. He receives a salary from the government of $174,000 plus expenses as a Congressman. He has another roughly $100,000 in income from stock he inherited in Whirlpool. He and his wife have another $300,000 or so in other stocks, like Exxon.
Upton’s total income is something like $600,000 annually. He further has undisclosed amounts of stock in a Whirlpool family trust, which he does not control and which equity is worth between $5,000,000 and $25,000,000. The Uptons have cash in the bank of somewhere between $500,000 and $1,000,000. As a Congressman, Fred Upton has to make all this public, and it is.
We can say one thing for sure. Fred Upton is doing better than the 5,000 people that the Whirlpool company laid off in the last year in order to provide those additional profits for his and his wife’s stock.
So Fred Upton should have some conflicting interests. He’s a major stockholder in Whirlpool…and a congressman. The congressman should care more for the people than he does for his wealth or why would he be pretending to work for the people, rather than Whirlpool’s best interests?
In Benton Harbor, Michigan, which is almost completely African-American, except for the Whirlpool headquarters, there is a park. It is called Jean Klock park and it is on the shores of Lake Michigan. Not many average workers still have jobs at Whirlpool in Benton Harbor. It closed its manufacturing jobs there long ago, and moved some of them to….Fort Smith, Arkansas because the wages were cheaper there.
Along the Lake Michigan shoreline, Jean Klock Park is one of the few highlights of a town where very little has ever been done for the people. And now Jean Klock Park has been diminished. More importantly, Benton Harbor may be the first case of the coming Fascist takeover of America.
You see, in 2010, a new governor was elected in Michigan. The hick farmers and the rich Republicans got together to put Ric Snyder into office. Snyder is a Right Wing investment banker, a Neocon-Fascist who was elected with the wealth of the Koch Family, the aid of a massive television ad campaign of lies, the help of the Tea Party Fascists, and the votes of the stupid hick farmers who are to narrow and greedy to understand that their parks will be next after Jean Klock Park.
The middle class Right Wingers and the hick farmers and the fundamentalist, racist nuts who don’t understand that their white skin or their prayers to a white God won’t save them from the ruin of a totalitarian state. This isn’t about white on black. This is about rich on poor, economic power…white rich men who want money. It’s about the color green the color of money, of real dough, of greenback dollars.
Whirlpool owned some old brownfields adjacent to Jean Klock Park. It was basically useless land to Whirlpool, especially since they did no manufacturing in Benton Harbor any longer. Someone in a group called the Cornerstone Alliance came up with the idea of building luxury homes and condominiums and a country club on that land. But they soon discovered that they needed some land from the Benton Harbor’s Jean Klock Park. But strangely, the people of Benton Harbor did not want to give up their beautiful park for a private luxury home development and private country club.
So a man named Al Pscholka, a former aide to Representative Upton, who had been elected in this Republican landslide of 2010, acting on behalf of the Cornerstone Alliance, a group of apparently concerned citizens for the welfare of golf courses and—here we go again—the Whirlpool Foundation, decided that the good citizens of Benton Harbor, median per capita in come $10,000…not the stuff of which most country clubbers are made…needed less lakeside park and more golf course and luxury home development.
Pscholka did not try to persuade anyone in Benton Harbor of anything. Why should he? It didn’t make sense with all the huge needs of Benton Harbor that have never been met. The very last thing on the minds of struggling Benton Harbor citizens was a golf course. But it was on Fred Upton’s mind, obviously. Not only was Al Pscholka, his old aide sent up to Lansing to file a new law, but Upton’s previous aide, John Proos went up to Lansing as well, moving up to State Senator from Pscholka’s seat so that Whirlpool Freddie could have two people in the state legislature.
And what was that law? It was a new law based on an old principle. It could be called mercantilist or monarchist or Fascist. It was a law that says the state of Michigan can take your land, and if your elected officials object, the state will fire your elected representatives and install new ones. Because of the stupidity of the Tea Party and the venality of the Right Wing Republicans in Michigan, people like Pscholka were elected with a big majority in the Michigan legislature. After election, with a Republican majority Pscholka rammed through a piece of legislation that says that an elected official in a local community can actually be removed by order of the Governor.
Because of the need to enact this bit of greedy, selfish, improper takeover of Benton Harbor lakefront, this is exactly what happened. The governor of Michigan, threw out the local mayor and installed his own man, a Republican operative named Joe Harris. The land was confiscated, the park changed, the golf course and home development established and the people of Benton Harbor relieved of their civil rights.
It isn’t just three holes of a golf course designed for Fred Upton and his wife and their friends. It isn’t about a park that could have been kept in pristine condition, a wonderful, free, wild place along the Michigan lakeshore. It is about political power, and the kind of cruel, evil power that we have not seen since the days of the American Robber Barons of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In a free society, when the central government uses its power to overrule the vote of the majority, that is Fascism. Fascism is defined as an alliance of government with industrial forces to overpower, to control government at all levels.
So do you see the connections? Fred Upton and Whirlpool Corporation. Upton votes against jobs bill after jobs bill as a Right Wing Republican. Whirlpool creates a foundation to help support a local organization whose job it is to take care of the wealthy members of a poor community. It then creates more money to go into its foundation by sending jobs first to Arkansas, devastating the local Benton Harbor community, further separating the rich in Benton Harbor from the average citizens. Finally, it devastates Fort Smith, Arkansas by sending those jobs to Mexico, as far down the pay ladder as a corporation can go.
Isn’t it clear? It is all about the rich, like Fred Upton and his wife, and their needs, their golf courses, luxury housing for their friends. Harbor Shores will undoubtedly be a fine place to play golf. There will even be professional golf tournaments there, to create revenues and some temporary jobs. But the goal is to create something else for the wealthy. It is to further create space between the middle classes and the lower middle classes and the management classes and owners of corporations, like Whirlpool.
Fred Upton and Al Pscholka won. They stole the land along lake Michigan from the residents of Benton Harbor. They built Harbor Shores golf course and the luxury home community. But they did something much worse. They took a piece out of the American system. Ric Snyder, Fred Upton, Joe Pscholka and another Upton ally, State Senator John Proos, all dedicated themselves to the initiation of Fascism in Michigan.
Where will it stop? How many pieces of land will be stolen, how many elected mayors dismissed, how many golf courses for the wealthy will be built before the people stand up and either vote these people out of office, or do away with them in some other appropriate way? Trying to overturn a government is not a good thing….unless it is an illegal, totalitarian government that will take your property, your job or your civil rights for the personal benefit of a few scoundrels. Then our own Declaration of Independence tells us that this kind of tyranny cannot and must not be tolerated.