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Keeping The American Dream Alive

United Auto Workers Hold Protest At IAC In Strasburg

By Aimee Cregger
The Shenandoah Valley-Herald

STRASBURG, June 24 - The United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2999 held a protest at International Automotive Components in Strasburg on Wednesday. The emotional and often vocal event aired the workers concerns over manufacturers outsourcing jobs to Mexico.

International Automotive Components is a global supplier of automotive parts, including interior and exterior structural and functional applications. The company is headquartered in Dearborn, Mich., with 29 locations in the U.S., two in Canada, and seven in Mexico. On May 22, IAC employees were notified that a major program run in Strasburg was being transferred to a similar plant in Mexico. The movement will affect 110 local jobs next month.

Production is being moved to Mexico because IAC is required to be in close proximity to its customer and General Motors needed this particular line near Mexico, according to David Ladd of IAC. Members of the UAW, also employees of IAC, came together on Wednesday to express their concerns to the public. Their years with the company ranged from 10 to 40.

Karen Foster, of Front Royal and president of the local UAW, paced up and down the sidewalk outside of IAC Wednesday afternoon chanting, "Let's hear it for the American worker," and "I wish we could afford to buy what we make."

Foster has been with IAC for 21 years.

IAC employees filled the sidewalks holding signs stating their fears and taking shifts, as some had to go in to work at the plant during the three-hour period.

Dennis Tharpe, a 14-year IAC employee, said he has lost his job, his title and his position, and has been laid-off a total of eight times during his employment at IAC. Standing next to Tharpe was Betsy Sayers, who was laid off in December, called back, then laid off again two weeks ago, and called back today. Sayers has been with IAC for 11 years. "We don't hope to change everything in one day, but we want the American factory worker's voice to be heard," said Foster.

Tom and Francis Salmon, of White Post, rested in the shade with their 2-month-old grandson and 3-year-old niece. They have a 15-year-old daughter at home and a 19-year-old daughter who lives on her own.

"I'd like to be able to help my daughter even though she is on her own, but it's hard when times are like these," said Tom.

According to Tom, last Memorial Day was the first time in 15 years he has been laid off unplanned. He said there have been several planned layoffs over the years.

"There is a constant threat and worry," said Frances. "We were blessed when they laid off just days before Christmas, and Tom missed the cut by two spots."

Some of the employees at the protest suggested that citizens call their elected officials to stop outsourcing by manufacturers to foreign countries. However, with the introduction of NAFTA, it's hard for competitive manufacturing industries to ignore the vast difference in salary costs between the U.S. and South and Central American countries. Foster stressed that the job losses not only affect those cut, but everyone in the community.

"If mom and dad are unemployed, who is going to raise the kids, Uncle Sam?" Foster said.

Contact Aimee Cregger at 459-4078, or e-mail her at aimee.svh@gmail.com.

International Automotive Components employees and members of United Auto Workers waved protest signs and American flags for passing cars to see at the Strasburg plant last week, after news was announced that 110 jobs were being transferred to Mexico.