Today’s News & Commentary — November 27, 2018
General Motors announced plans to idle five factories in North America and lay off 14,000 workers in an effort to trim costs. These cuts will affect 3,300 production workers in the United States and about 2,500 in Canada. The company also plans to cut its salaried staff by 8,000. These cuts represent over 10 percent of GM’s North American workforce. The United Auto Workers, which represents workers at the American plants, has called the move a “callous decision” that “will not go unchallenged by the UAW.”
GM’s closing announcement sent shockwaves through Oshawa, Ontario, where factories once employed upward of 40,000 people and where General Motors Canada has its headquarters. Plant workers walked out to protest GM’s plans to shut down the Oshawa assembly plant. GM’s decision to shutter the plant, which will put an estimated 2,500 unionized employees and 300 salaried workers out of work, amounts to a breach of GM’s contract with its employees, the president of Canada’s largest private sector union said at a press conference on Monday. According to Unifor president Jerry Dias, the 2016 contract negotiated between GM and Unifor specified that the company would not close any of its Canadian manufacturing plants during the contract period, which lasts until September 2020. On Monday, GM said that it does not plan to manufacture vehicles in Oshawa beyond 2019.
The decision to shutter the Hamtramck, Michigan, assembly plant recalls the contentious battle over the plant’s development and raises questions about how to go about urban revitalization today, John Gallagher writes for the Detroit Free Press. In the early 1980s, Detroit’s mayor supported General Motors’ plan to build an assembly plant on the border of Detroit and Hamtramck to create jobs in the economically distressed city. However, the site was already home to over 4,000 residents, several Catholic churches and over 100 businesses that made up a Polish neighborhood known as Poletown. Although the plan faced resistance from locals and consumer advocates alike, officials ultimately used the government’s eminent domain powers to seize and raze the properties on GM’s behalf. While Poletown-type seizures are unlikely today, state and local officials still tend to “choose the big-bang projects, with their glittering promises of jobs and tax base, over the quieter neighborhood revitalization work,” Gallagher writes.
On Cyber Monday, protesters marched in New York City to protest Amazon’s new headquarters, half of which will be located in Long Island City, Queens. Along with the company’s potential deleterious effects on public transit and affordable housing, protesters drew attention to Amazon’s relationship with United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This summer, Amazon pitched its facial-recognition platform to ICE officials as a way for the agency to target or identify immigrants.