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To workers hit by factory closures NAFTA was a disaster

You donít have to go far to find blue collar workers who point directly at NAFTA as the driving force behind the decline of U.S. manufacturing.

By Tyrel Linkhorn and Ignazio Messina • March 28 2017

Abelino Ruiz yawned, stretched, and apologized for his fatigue, blaming it on the night shift he just finished as a Toledo Hospital nursing assistant.

It’s a job the 53-year-old from West Toledo is grateful for and one he reinvented himself to do after a decade working inside a factory that was shuttered and since razed — another casualty of a plummeting economy and possibly a continental trade deal that helped ship jobs to other countries.

“I worked at Textileather from 1991 to, man, almost 11 years, and I was out of there in 2001 or 2002 when they started cutting down supervision,” Mr. Ruiz said.

Like many laid-off factory workers, he faced losing his home, and it took years for recovery. Mr. Ruiz said he finally feels, a decade later, like he is financially secure.

“I ended up working three jobs right after,” he said. “When a lot of people in the automotive industry lost their good paying jobs, that’s what they were doing to survive.”

With Republican candidate Donald Trump harping on Hillary Clinton regarding the North American Free Trade Agreement — which was negotiated under President George H.W. Bush and championed through Congress by President Bill Clinton — the 2016 campaign has reignited debate on the trade deal blamed for thousands of lost Ohio jobs.

For Mr. Ruiz, there is no debate. It’s right there in writing. The reason Textileather closed, as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor for its Trade Adjustment Assistance program, was a shift in production to China and Canada.

“Yeah, NAFTA,” Mr. Ruiz acknowledged. “Plus we watched our benefits get slowly get taken away — medical, vision, dental — we had it all. We had Christmas parties, picnics, and it made you feel like family.”

Ohio factories gone

You don’t have to go far to find blue collar workers who point directly at NAFTA as the driving force behind the decline of U.S. manufacturing.

“You talk to people from Honeywell at least and they’ll say Clinton was a pretty good president overall, but this NAFTA thing was a disaster,” said David Heiser, a 65-year-old electrician who retired from Honeywell International’s Autolite spark plug factory in Fostoria shortly before the company shipped more than 500 jobs to Mexico.

Northwest Ohio is scattered with towns like Fostoria that were once best known for making things. Now many of those factory towns are known for trying to reinvent themselves in the 21st century economy.

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Tags:   US Manufacturing News    NAFTA    US Manufacturing    Jobs    Employment    Factories
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To workers hit by factory closures NAFTA was a disaster
To workers hit by factory closures NAFTA was a disaster