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Union leaders, elected officials rip firms that take U.S. help, then cut U.S. jobs

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 11, 2009 - The parade of prominent public figures -- The Rev. Jesse Jackson, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay -- offered up the same theme:

Financially troubled American companies shouldn't take in American taxpayer dollars, and then improve their finances by shipping out American jobs.

"There's something wrong with the formula!" declared Jackson, touching off shouts of agreement from several hundred angry union workers gathered for Monday night's "Keep It Made in America'' rally held in Kiener Plaza.

The event was the first stop in an 11-state, 34-city tour. The next stop is a rally at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Cape Girardeau.

McCaskill declared, "Let's build them where we sell them,'' and said that members of Congress have made it clear that they are upset with proposals to give more federal money to the domestic auto industry, while allowing them to eliminate more U.S. jobs.

Such actions seriously threaten middle-class jobs that she said were largely created by unions and are the underpinning of the United States.

"If we get to the point we only have rich people and poor people,'' the nation's economic and political future is at risk, she said.

Slay warned that at least 7 million jobs connected with the auto industry were under threat nationally. He noted the thousands in Missouri that already have been lost by closures at the Chrysler plant in Fenton and the Ford plant in Hazelwood. The mayor also touched on the possibility of thousands more good-paying jobs lost if Boeing sees cuts in its military contracts for the C-17 and F-18 aircraft.

But it was two non-politicians -- auto dealer Dave Sinclair and United Steelworkers union president Leo Gerard -- who really got the crowd's blood boiling.

"This shouldn't happen to you,'' Sinclair said, but added that union workers are contributing to their woes if they shop for non-union, foreign goods.

"If you go to Wal-Mart, you're a rat,'' Sinclair said.

Gerard said that workers were being unfairly targeted for cuts in jobs, healthcare, pay and pensions that Wall Street executives have generally avoided.

"These bastards ought to go to jail,'' Gerard said. "...This is the 'Wall Street Way.' They make it on both ends of the deal."

He said that President Barack Obama owed his election to union workers, and needed to recognize that they deserved protection.

And all working Americans need to understand that the demise of the nation's domestic auto industry will affect them, Gerard added. "If we're not making cars, we're not using steel. If we're not making steel, we're not using iron ore. If we're not using iron ore, there's no mining...''

The list goes on, Gerard continued, until there was no one to frequent the local coffee shop. A steelworker in India, he concluded, wouldn't be stopping by to drink coffee near the steel plantin Granite City.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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