The thing I dislike most about blogging is regurgitating the news. That is to say, to simply rehash a news event without adding any perspective or opinion. That why I haven't commented about Quaker Fabric (Providence Journal Link Registration Required) until now.
Quaker Fabric has been a mainstay to the Fall River economy for over sixty years, less than a decade ago it was Fall River's largest employer with over 2,400 people on the payroll. Quaker was a success story in the area's declining textile industry. However things changed just a few short years ago, seemingly due to international trade, as Quaker started posting quarterly losses and laying off employees. Despite all attempts to turn the tide Quaker shut down for it's annual 2 week break and announced that it was unlikely that they could remain open.
The announcement was treated with great surprise and there has been a community effort to try to make all resources available to retrain and reemploy Quakers workers. Senators Kerry and Kennedy have moved to secure funding under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program, which would provide funding for training and extended unemployment benefits.
Lefty's view: It's wonderful that the community has rallied to support these displaced workers but so many of these employees who lack the skill set and educational background to move into another industry are going to face huge challenges to 'reinvent' themselves. I hope the support they are receiving now is there after this is no longer a front page news story.
It's also wonderful to have the support of Kerry and Kennedy but I have to wonder did the 1,400 plus employees who lost their jobs when Quaker was still fighting for viability benefit for any similar actions?
Good will aside, how did Quaker get into this mess? How does a company go from being a strong, successful and growing company to having to liquidate in such a short time? Much has been made about the fierce foreign competition but how much of this competition has been brought on by changes in U.S. trade policy? Is it fair to open up trade with countries where the costs of business are so much cheaper because workers are exploited and have almost no rights? Where children are considered part of the labor force and health, safety and environmental regulations are minimal at best? When you factor in the costs of the standards we demand how can U.S. companies compete? Is it fair to open up trade with countries that put U.S. companies at such a disadvantage and where the 'playing field' is anything but level? Did our elected leaders consider the effects such unfair competition would have? If the argument is that free trade is good for the 'national' economy is it okay to sacrifice some for the greater good?