Monday, September 20, 2004

Some soothing words during troubled times:

"Two facts are worth noting in the wake of (the decision to move the corporate headquarters from here to Atlanta:
-"The company left behind (more than 1,000) jobs here, most of them in manufacturing.
-"The company grew into an economic force here without ever leaving the area."

Those might be soothing words if they were written about O'Sullivan Industries in Lamar. They were not. They were written by Adam Lowenstein, a reporter for the Register Star newspaper in Rockford, Ill. The company that moved its corporate headquarters from Freeport, Ill., just west of Rockford, to Atlanta, was Newell Rubbermaid. As anyone who reads The Turner Report or the Joplin Globe knows by now, the three top officials at O'Sullivan Industries, which recently moved its corporate headquarters from Lamar to Atlanta, including million-dollar CEO Bob Parker, all came from Newell Rubbermaid.
Newell Rubbermaid moved its corporate headquarters from Illinois to Atlanta in 2003. Company officials promised not to close the Amerock plant, a fixture in Rockford for more than 75 years, for at least three years.
They lied.
In March of this year, Register Star columnist Chuck Sweeny, who predicted just a week earlier that the compay would close the plant and ship the manufacturing jobs overseas, found out he was on the money and Amerock workers were out of it.
Sweeny wrote, "Last Thursday, after I wondered how long it would be before Newell Rubbermaid shed its Amerock workers, I received a phone call. I can't get it out of my mind.
"I'm not publishing the woman's name, but she is real. She has worked at the Amerock factory on Auburn Street for 29 years. Every day, she drives into Rockford from a town about 30 miles away.
"She has driven through sleet, snow, rain and gloom of night to come to work. She has done many jobs in the factory. She has had carpal tunnel syndrome, back disorders, and other aches and pains associated with a factory job."
The woman told Sweeny she was afraid she was going to lose her job. She had seen people in the plant with cameras, filming how the workers did their jobs. "They say they're updating our records," the woman said, "but we think it's to show the Mexicans how they're supposed to do the jobs when they take them away from us."
The woman said a meeting had been scheduled in two weeks to tell the workers what was going to happen. The Newell Rubbermaid officials did not wait two weeks. A day or two later they told the workers their jobs were history. Their jobs were headed overseas.
The woman was wrong about one thing. The Mexicans did not take away the jobs. Greedy American businessmen, with no loyalty toward workers or their country sold them down the river.
Corporate headquarters for O'Sullivan Industries are going to be in Atlanta. Bob Parker isn't being paid $1.5 million a year by the people of Lamar. All they did was help Tom O'Sullivan and his family creat the business that is making Bob Parker and his fellow Newell Rubbermaid expatriates extremely wealthy. If the company can save a few bucks by shipping manufacturing elsewhere, maybe even overseas, it will happen.
Those decisions become even easier when they are being made from hundreds of miles away. And don't blame what is happening to O'Sullivan Industries on the O'Sullivan family. Though many of them have been removed only recently, the major decision-making has been out of the family's hands for a while.
The worst thing that could have happened to Lamar was when the local effort, led by the O'Sullivans in the mid 1990s to buy the company back from Tandy fell just short. That was when the door opened wide for the corporate vultures who are now in charge.
Hopefully, the worst-case scenario I wrote about above will never take place, but the Lamar area has to be prepared if it does. It is unlikely that another Tom O'Sullivan will come around to save the area, as the O'Sullivan Industries founder did when he moved here 40 years ago shortly after Lawn Boy, the city's biggest employer closed its doors. Steps need to be taken to encourage growth and expansion by companies like Thorco, Finley Engineering, and Epoch and the city and Chamber of Commerce need to continue to work to attract small industries that employ 50 to 75 people apiece to come to the city. It is highly doubtful that a major employer on the scale of O'Sullivan is going to come to this area, though you never can tell.
It would be preferable if O'Sullivan Industries continued to be a major employer for Lamar and the surrounding area. As long as our political leaders place the needs of stockholders above those of workers, there is reason for concern.
One of the jobs of law enforcement is to get drunk drivers off the streets.
Sometimes our legal system puts them right back behind the steering wheel.
The Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals Monday backed the Department of Revenue's appeal to Jasper County Circuit Court Judge Richard Copeland's decision that put Sara Ruth back on the streets.
Ms. Ruth's license was revoked for one year after she refused to take a breathalyzer test following a DWI arrest. Ms. Ruth had appealed the Department of Revenue's decision, and after a hearing, Copeland determined that she had been arrested for driving while intoxicated, but had not refused the breathalyzer test and ordered her driving privileges reinstated even though the record clearly contradicted his judgment.
The records said that on the evening of May 29, 2003, Captain Jason Wright and Officer Wanda Hembree were on patrol in Joplin. While they were stopped at a traffic light, they saw a Ford Ranger stopped in the right hand lane in front of them. The passenger door was open and someone was leaning out of the car. The officers pulled up behind the car.
According to their report, the officer smelled alcohol. They asked the driver if anything was wrong. She said "her friend had too much to drink and was sick." Wright saw vomit inside the car.
Wright asked Ms. Ruth if she had been drinking. She said she had been drinking a couple of hours earlier. Wright detected a smell of alcohol coming from Ms. Ruth and wrote that Ms. Ruth's eyes were "watery, bloodshot, and glassy; she was wobbling and staggering; and her speech was slurred." Ms. Ruth had no problem with an eyetracking test, but failed the walk-and-turn test, the report said.
A preliminary breath test indicated she was drunk, according to the report, so she was arrested for driving while intoxicated. When they arrived at the Joplin Police Station, Ms. Ruth was given her Miranda rights, answered some questions, then she said she did not want to answer any more.
"The records show she was asked to submit to a chemical test of her breath. Hembree determined (Ms. Ruth) refused to submit to the test and noted the refusal" on the report.
At her trial, Ms. Ruth testified that since she had already been given the breathalyzer during the stop, she had asked if she could "have time to think about it" when the second request was made. She said she was never asked and that the officer simply said on the report that she had refused.
Based on that testimony, Copeland restored Ms. Ruth's driving privileges.
In the appeal, the Department of Revenue said Copeland's decision was wrong because there were reasonable grounds for arresting Ms. Ruth for driving while intoxicated and the record showed she had refused the breathalyzer test. Under Missouri law, all persons who drive on state highways are "deemed to have consented to a chemical test of their breath."
According to the appellate court ruling, "The evidence presented at trial unequivocally shows that (Ms. Ruth) initially refused to submit to the breath test."
The appellate court ordered Copeland to reinstate the one-year revocation of Ms. Ruth's license.

No comments: