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Arkansas Whirlpool Factory Closes, Unions Say “Bring Jobs Home”

Arkansas Whirlpool Factory Closes, Unions Say “Bring Jobs Home”

Whirlpool Corp. closed its Fort Smith Arkansas factory on June 29 laying off  826 hourly workers and eight salaried employees. The production of side-by-side refrigerators will continue in Mexico, while built-in refrigerators are now being produced at a plant in Amana, Iowa.  Now, the Fort Smith Community will lose more than $3.1 million a week, according to United Steelworkers Local 370 President Rick Nemeth. 

The factory had 4,600 workers as recently as 2006.

A group of 30 union members, elected officials and political candidates met at the United Steelworkers hall in Fort Smith, Arkansas, to voice support for the Bring  Jobs Home Act, on Saturday, July 7, a little more than a week after Whirlpool Corp. closed its local refrigerator Fort Smith factory.

Nemeth said:

We want to work. We’ve got a lot of companies still here. Let’s keep them and grow on them.

Rick Belk, secretary-treasurer for the Arkansas AFL-CIO, said the factory closing cost the community decent wages.

“If you just came to listen to speeches, that’s not going to be enough,” he told the Southwest Times Record. He urged those at the meeting to "tell their elected officials to stand up for the American worker."

Among the unions present at the meeting were United Steelworkers (USW), AFSCME, Actors’ Equity (AEA), UAW, Fire Fighters (IAFF), Communications Workers of America (CWA), Sheet Metal Workers (SMWIA) and Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA). Representatives from the Crawford County Democratic Party and the Sebastian and Crawford County Central Labor Council also attended the Bring Jobs Home event.

The Bring Jobs Home Act—a bill that would stop companies from taking a tax deduction for moving expenses when they ship jobs overseas—was discussed as a piece of legislation that congressional leaders can immediately act on as a first step in a comprehensive plan to end incentives for sending good jobs away.

All over the country thousands of working families and their unions are urging Congress to take action on the nation’s jobs crisis, part of the AFL-CIO’s Bring Jobs Home campaign.

After the July 4 recess, Congress will take up the Bring Jobs Home Act (S. 2884), which will cut taxes for U.S. companies that move jobs and business operations to the United States and end tax loopholes that reward companies that ship jobs overseas. Working families also are pushing for a call center bill that would bar companies that send call center jobs overseas from receiving federal grants and tax breaks.

Along with building support for the Bring Jobs Home Act and the call center bill and for stopping currency manipulation, the AFL-CIO is calling on lawmakers to:

  • Tax the overseas income of U.S. corporations the same way we tax their domestic income, so they can no longer lower their tax bill by shifting income and jobs overseas; and 
  • Push for fair trade policies that benefit workers—not just multinational corporations.

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