Jewish World Review Jan. 26, 2004 / 3 Shevat, 5764
The pols jabber while the jobs keep vanishing
MANCHESTER, N.H. A couple of days ago, I sat in my car, which was
parked in one of the true symbols of the corporate corruption that has
ruined so many workers' lives, wondering why the presidential
candidates weren't as angry about economics as they seem to be about
war. It was the empty employee parking lot of Tyco International in
Exeter, a quaint, preppy village about 30 miles east of Manchester.
The building is new and as abandoned as the lot. It is actually a campus
where nearly 1,000 were employed until the company's CEO, Dennis
Kozlowski, got caught looting. He is now on trial for being a pig who ran
the place as if he, rather than shareholders, owned it.
I sat there looking at the building, thinking it was a good symbol of the
type of greed and larceny that lunge after pensions and 401(k) plans
like a career felon on the street.
Leaving, I drove past dozens of political signs for one Democrat or
another. I pulled into Manchester and saw something I had never
noticed here before: about 40 men and women, all of them members of
minority groups. At first, I figured they were imported for Al Sharpton,
but they had the weary look of those just off an assembly line.
They were from several different countries - African nations as well as
Vietnam, Cambodia and El Salvador - and their destination was the
food processing factory owned by Tyson Foods, out of Springdale,
Ark., Bill Clinton's home state.
"We cut meat," a tall young man named Abraham told me. "I'm from
Sudan. I have been here five months. This is a good job for me, but it is
a disappearing one."
"Did they tell you?" a man asked as he came out of the building where
the company's human resources office is located. "Last day of work is
Feb. 3 - 550 jobs gone."
Along with Abraham and the roster of other refugees and aliens
charged with processing poultry, the man, who is from Romania, is
doing a job that a lot of Americans simply won't do. And now even this
one is disappearing in a state where an awful lot of people keep moving
lower on the skill ladder to have a paycheck. One company closes,
replaced by another with lower wages. One day, it's a machine shop.
The next, it's a fast-food restaurant in a suburban mall.
The guy makes $8.50 an hour. He has a wife, a daughter and a car that
will soon take him to the unemployment office on Hanover St. here,
where he will get $372 a week for as many as 26 weeks. "They are
having a job fair here Friday for us," he said. "Thirty companies coming,
they tell us. Maybe I find a job there. I need the health [insurance].
That's the important thing, get the health."
One company, Tyco, looted its employees' future. Another, Tyson, can
find workers elsewhere. And all this is happening in a place where
people who want to be President go around telling voters how angry
they are about the state of the union under President Bush while
workers remain frightened by a week without pay.
JWR contributor Mike Barnicle is a columnist for the New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.
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