February 2011

From the Officers
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Inspiration in Tennessee

I was inspired by the spirit of members of Sparta, Tenn., Local 2143 as I joined them and community leaders on Jan. 8 on a walk to protest the planned shutdown of the Philips lighting fixture plant and outsourcing the work to Mexico.

It wasn't hard to see why their plant has been celebrated as one of the 10 best manufacturing plants in North America. These are men and women who take pride in making quality consumer products.

Our members in Sparta are working with an extraordinary manager, Dave Uhrik, who—immediately after the shutdown was announced—put a plan together to purchase the plant in hopes to convince Netherlands-based corporate giant Philips to continue ordering fixtures made in Tennessee.

Philips refused, an act that can only be characterized as corporate betrayal at its very worst.

Here's a foreign-based company that has received more than $7 million in U.S. federal stimulus money shutting down a profitable, productive plant and spending millions more to move to Mexico. If this plant shuts down, no manufacturing plant in the U.S. or Canada is safe.

I say, "if the plant shuts down" because members of Local 2143, the plant management and their community are not rolling over or running scared in the face of the company's brutal announcement. They are fighting to keep it open.

Brothers and sisters, I am determined to see that the men and women of Sparta are not left to struggle alone. I am mobilizing our International union's staff and resources to help spread the story of Philips' betrayal to all who share our desire for economic justice, not just within North America, but across the globe.

Can the IBEW and our allies keep the Sparta plant from joining the list of 50,000 others in the U.S. that have already shut their doors? We don't know, but the line has been drawn.

The fight to rebuild and sustain a manufacturing sector in the U.S.—to restore the broad prosperity and pride that were the hallmarks of the American Dream—starts in places just like Sparta. Let's keep the lights on.


Also: Lee: Congress: Don't Kill Good Construction Jobs

Edwin D. Hill
International President