up production, at slave-labor wages, in developing countries. During the late 1980s and the 1990s, GM built several dozen plants in Mexico (including for Delphi, its spinoff). It has seven plants constructed or planned in China.
This drove GM to slash its workforce, which occurred in two phases. In 1978, GM had 520,000 hourly, or “blue collar” workers, most of whom were engaged in production. By 1991, it had cut this hourly workforce to 304,000. Then, in 1992, GM had a crisis which put it on the ropes. It intensified out- sourcing, plant closings, and layoffs. From 1991-2004, GM closed eight production facilities, and reduced its workforce to 117,000. Thus, between 1978 and 2004, GM fired (or attrited) 403,000 workers, 78% of its hourly workforce.
In a retooling policy as proposed by LaRouche, it would be worthwhile to bring back some of these workers, to benefit from their skills. Some who worked during the 1980s and 1990s, may have reached the retirement age. Assuming, con- servatively, that even half these workers were able-bodied and younger than the retirement age, 200,000 workers would be qualified to be brought back to work, provided one could open some of the closed GM facilities, and expand the employment at some currently open GM facilities, which in several cases are carrying out work in only a portion of the plant’s entire floor space.
Announcements that GM plants would be producing again—although different products—and rehiring workers who once worked there, would attract a crowd, since many dismissed workers found employment only at non-productive, lower-paying jobs. These dismissed workers would need 8-13 week retraining courses, to expand their skills—also true for current workers.
This makes it critical that the bankers’ plans for further dis- mantling of GM be stopped. Figure 2 and Table 1 show the configuration and location of GM’s current 55 facilities: 54 are production facilities, and the remaining one is GM’s Technical Center (number 24 on the map). Of the production facilities, 23 are assembly plants where the final car, or the final body or chassis is assembled. There are also 16 powertrain (PT) pro- duction facilities, which are factories that make engines, trans- missions, and related components. Many of the remaining GM facilities are stamping plants.
The GM Technical Center, located in Warren, Michigan, employs 18,400 workers, the majority of whom are engineers. Their expertise, which is heavily in car design and styling, could be very valuable with retraining.
There is an all-out push to shut down many of these facili- ties. GM has already closed its Baltimore, Maryland assembly plant, as well as a foundry in Saginaw, Michigan. However, GM is aggressively seizing upon a provision in the contract with the UAW, which says that the company can “idle plants indefinitely,” and is moving to place its Linden, New Jersey assembly plant, its Lansing, Michigan assembly plant, and a Muncie, Indiana transmission plant in that classification. GM
Railroad Equipment Manufacturers' Production Workers
(Number of Workers)
Sources: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, EIR.
could idle these plants for two years, and shut them forever when the contract expires. The April 26 Detroit News, in an article entitled “GM May Close More Factories,” designated five more GM assembly plants for possible classification of “indefinitely idled,” including production facilities in Orion, Michigan; Wentzville, Wisconsin; two in Spring Hill, Tennessee; and Doraville, Georgia. All told, that’s 10 of GM’s 54 production facilities. That is why LaRouche has said that GM’s production facilities must be saved from shutdown in the immediate future.
A walk through any auto production facility will very quickly come upon machine tools. A facility may possess 20- 30, or several hundred, or in one case 1,450. The machine tools are usually deployed in clusters—so what is being worked on is passed from one machine tool to the next—and the plant may be thought of as an ordered configuration of machine tools.
The machine-tool design principle is the driving force of an economy. It starts with scientific discovery of fundamental physical principle. This discovery is incorporated as a design within the machine tool, which transmits it to the economy. A succession of machine-tool designs results, each with more power to positively transform the economy. At the same time, these scientific discoveries shape the minds of members of the labor force, increasing their cognitive ability and associated
May 6, 2005