Rally protests plan to shut 8 Chrysler plants

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STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. — A thousand workers rallied at Chrysler’s Sterling Heights Assembly Plant (SHAP) here last week to protest the planned closing of eight automobile factories in Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Delaware and Ohio in 2010 as part of the Chrysler-Fiat restructuring.

Sterling Heights Mayor Richard Notte spoke of a plan to get a new vehicle produced at SHAP, and several United Auto Workers union local leaders from other Chrysler plants spoke in support. The featured speaker was Bill Parker, national chair of the UAW Chrysler negotiating committee and president of Local 1700, which represents most of the SHAP workers.

A leaflet distributed at the rally by Local 1700 raised several questions:

In decision after decision Chrysler is closing a U.S. plant and keeping a parallel plant open outside this country. American taxpayers paid 80 percent of the cost to save Chrysler and Canadian taxpayers paid 20 percent. How can 100 percent of the closings fall on the country that contributed the most to the company’s survival?

If these cuts were implemented today, the union leaflet pointed out, Chrysler would be left with one car plant and four truck and SUV plants in the U.S. This is not the restructuring of the industry we were promised, the flyer said.

Down the road, when the market expands, Local 1700 asked, will Chrysler get increased production in the U.S., or seek to increase imports from Mexico and other low-wage countries? Should U.S. taxpayer money support global operations or should our taxes support people, jobs and communities here at home?

Speakers encouraged the workers and public to contact President Obama by e-mail or phone (www.whitehouse.gov/contact or 202-456-1414) to express their opinions on this.

The eight Chrysler plants scheduled for closing next year are SHAP, St. Louis North Assembly, Twinsburg Stamping, Kenosha Engine, Detroit Axle, Conner Avenue Assembly, St. Louis South and Newark Assembly.