October 16, 2008 - The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has struck again, this time paving the way for Daimler Trucks NA to close the Portland, OR, plant where Freightliner trucks have been built for more than half a century. The decision to move truck production to Mexico is part of what the company is calling its “Global Excellence” strategy and will eliminate nearly 900 jobs held by members of Local 1005 in Portland.
“This is not the fault of the workers,” said District 24 Business Rep Joe Kear. “We have a proud workforce in Portland that has performed exceptionally and no one on the management side is saying the plant is not profitable.”
Analysts credit skyrocketing diesel prices, tighter credit and lower product demand for the decision to move truck production to Mexico, but no one denies that $2-$4 per hour wages in Mexico and the lack of a clear national manufacturing policy in the U.S. are equally responsible.
“Freightliner trucks have been an icon on the open road for more than two generations,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger. “The decision by the German company Daimler to uproot a legacy U.S. company and move it to Mexico shows just how toothless NAFTA has left this country. We desperately need a national trade policy that allows U.S. workers and U.S. communities to preserve their jobs, their industrial heritage and their basic economic infrastructure.”
Elected officials in Portland were quick to condemn the move, with Portland’s Mayor-elect Sam Adams calling the news “a punch to our economic gut.” The impact of the closure is not limited to the Freightliner workers. Three to four additional jobs in the Portland area are at risk for every high wage job that leaves the state.