Let’s do what’s best for Maytag workers

Let’s do what’s best for Maytag workers
 
Date January 20, 2006
Section(s) Columnists
Brief  
 
By Sen. JEFF LAMBERTI

Guest Commentary

As the co-president of the Iowa Senate and a candidate for U.S. Congress, I get the opportunity to hear from a lot of Iowans about what is on their mind. One of the biggest concerns I hear is how we keep good paying jobs, like the jobs at the Maytag plant in Newton, here in Iowa.

This issue is fresh in all our minds because of the announcement last year that Maytag would be purchased by Whirlpool, putting in doubt the future of Maytag‘s manufacturing facility in Newton, along with the numerous hard-working Iowans employed there.

The current workers at the Newton plant are among the hardest working, highest skilled workers in the entire world. Despite that, economic pressures beyond the control of the workers and their families have changed the dynamics of the industry, leading to the decline of profitability of Maytag.

Needless to say, there is not a single person in Iowa who wanted to see Maytag purchased by another company. Maytag has not only been a staple in Newton but an icon for other Iowa businesses. Therefore, when Maytag began the process of looking for bidders for the company, it goes without saying that the best possible outcome would be for a purchaser who had the potential to maintain the plant in Newton.

There were others who considered purchasing Maytag. One bid came from a group of east coast investors with no experience in the appliance industry, and whose commitment to the Newton plant was unclear. Another company mentioned as a potential bidder was controlled by the Chinese government. In the end, Whirlpool, an American-based company with a distinguished history in the appliance industry, prevailed and purchased Maytag.

It is my hope that Whirlpool will see the potential and value of the Newton plant and will maintain production capabilities at the site. That is why I wrote to the leadership of Whirlpool last week, urging them to recognize what a great asset they have in the Maytag workers located in Newton. As an American-based company with a long tradition in the appliance industry, I believe that by reaching out to Whirlpool, we have an opportunity to save good paying jobs in Iowa.

My beliefs appear to be shared by many in the Newton area — many Maytag workers and retirees voted as shareholders to overwhelmingly support Whirlpool’s purchase. It appeared that the Newton community was coming together putting their hope and faith behind the belief that Whirlpool would see the value that the Newton factory and its workers could provide.

But then, Congressman Leonard Boswell, along with fellow Democrat Senator Tom Harkin, announced that they would ask the U.S. Department of Justice to block Maytag‘s sale to Whirlpool.

This action by Leonard Boswell is a shortsighted partisan political ploy that could damage the future of the Maytag plant and the City of Newton. Now is not the time to play these Washington political games with the future of Maytag workers.

It is impossible to tell what, if any, positive development could result from Congressman Boswell’s actions. It became quite clear last year that Maytag needed dynamic change and new direction — surviving as a stand-alone company was not an option.

I find it hard to believe that Congressman Boswell thinks having Maytag purchased by a company controlled by the Chinese government would be good for workers in Newton, let alone a group of east-coast investors with no experience in the appliance industry.

Bottom line: Leonard Boswell has lost touch with what is truly in the best interests of the Newton workers.

I hope Congressman Boswell will recognize that he has taken the wrong approach to saving these good paying jobs in Newton. I hope he will work with me so that we can illustrate to Whirlpool that this is not a political issue but an issue of keeping hard-working, high-skilled workers doing what they do best in Newton. Side by side, Republican and Democrat, we can offer a united front to Whirlpool showcasing the talents of these employees.

This year has been a heartbreaking time in Newton with the sale of Maytag and I share the concerns of the community. With this in mind, I am certain that the heart of this city will return, and I offer my sincere pledge that I will do whatever I can to help retain the Maytag plant and the jobs associated with it.

Jeff Lamberti is a State Senator from Ankeny, currently serving as the co-president of the Iowa Senate, and is a candidate for Congress in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District

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One Response to “Let’s do what’s best for Maytag workers”

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