Two days ago, 90 UAW members in Fort Madison, Iowa, were told they might lose their jobs. These workers make Scheaffer pens, in a plant that once had a workforce over 1,000 strong. Those remaining are now faced with the threat of a plant closing because Scheaffer's parent company, Bic, wants to "consolidate global operations" to Mexico and South America.

Unfortunately, some of our elected leaders still deny the reality of what's happening in Fort Madison, and elsewhere throughout Iowa and the United States.

On the floor of the U.S. Senate last week, for example, Iowa Senator Charles Grassley asserted that the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs in the United States has little to do with jobs being moved overseas.

Grassley was speaking against an amendment offered by Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, which would bar the use of federal tax dollars to fund foreign outsourcing. The amendment was passed, over the objections of Grassley, who said that job loss is mainly caused by increased productivity and new knowledge that have made many jobs obsolete and "extinct."

Buggy-whip makers and elevator operators were cited by Grassley as jobs that are no longer needed in the 21st Century economy. "Do they still want people making buggy whips," he asked, "when we don't have buggies anymore?"

Senator Grassley's comments reflect a shocking lack of knowledge about what is truly happening to our nation's industrial base - which includes more than 220,000 manufacturing workers in the state of Iowa.

The brutal reality is that the jobs of highly productive and skilled manufacturing jobs are constantly being moved from the United States to Mexico, China, India, and other countries. These jobs are being shipped to foreign countries, not because the jobs are obsolete or "extinct" like buggy-whip makers, but simply because multi-national corporations believe they can increase their profit margins by slashing their labor costs and avoiding environmental standards.

In addition to workers at the Schaeffer plant, here are some other recent examples involving members of our union from Iowa:

· Maytag shifted production of washer and dryer components from Newton, Iowa, to Mexico;

· John Deere closed an engine line in Dubuque, Iowa, and moved the production and jobs to Mexico;

· Case Manufacturing shifted production of buckets for end-loaders from Burlington, Iowa, to Mexico;

· Ertel Toys moved production of toys from Dyersville, Iowa, to Mexico and then to China.

The problem reaches beyond Iowa, of course, and has also affected UAW members in other parts of the country:

· Electrolux has announced the closing of its refrigerator plant in Greenville, Michigan, that employs 2,700 workers, and is shifting the production to Mexico.

· DaimlerChrysler forced one of its suppliers, Tower Automotive, to shift the assembly of frames for the Dodge Ram pickup truck from Milwaukee to Mexico.

· Auto-parts suppliers have come under intense pressure from the major auto companies to move their production and jobs abroad. In particular, General Motors and other auto companies are ramping up auto-parts production in China, which will be used to source the U.S. market.

· Automakers and parts suppliers are also moving more business operations overseas, including engineering, information technology, and financial work to India and other countries.

Senator Grassley has somehow missed the fact that these and thousands of other manufacturing jobs are being moved overseas. He has also missed the fact that the American workers - including his own constituents - whose jobs were shipped overseas were not producing obsolete or "extinct" items.

They were producing washers and dryers, engines, buckets for end-loaders, toys, refrigerators, frames for pickup trucks, and other auto parts that continue to be in high demand by consumers and other companies.

Approximately 2.8 million Americans have lost manufacturing jobs since the beginning of the Bush administration. Senator Grassley may think their jobs were "obsolete," but the UAW doesn't think so. We believe their jobs and work were valuable and very much needed by our country and the world. To dismiss their job loss as equivalent to the loss of elevator operators or buggy whips is both inaccurate and insulting.

Senator Grassley owes these workers an apology. And he owes the citizens of Iowa - and of the United States - an effort to more fully understand the realities of today's global economy.

Ron Gettelfinger
President, United Auto Workers
Detroit, Michigan

State Needs Strong Anti-Bullying Measure


The Iowa Legislature is trying to make schools safe and welcoming for all kids. We are acting in response to Governor Vilsack's call for an "anti-bullying" bill.

Iowans are known for both our tolerance and for the high value we place on educational opportunity. Every child in Iowa is important, and we believe that none of them should be subjected to bullying, violence, or mental abuse.

Unfortunately for gay students - and straight students accused of being gay - our schools often fall short of our expectations. About 50 percent of those harassed and bullied in school will not go on to college. Regardless of whether they are gay or straight, Iowa simply can't afford to leave these kids behind.

Iowa schools need a statewide policy that clearly defines harassment and prohibits discrimination based upon age, color, creed, national origin, race, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability.

That's what Governor Vilsack proposed. Republican leaders are instead offering a version that is meaningless because it does not contain the words "sexual orientation."

Let's not fool ourselves. Sexual orientation and perceived sexual orientation are the number-one causes of harassment in Iowa schools. You know it. I know it, and, most importantly, gay and straight school kids who are bullied know it all too well.

Many of us can remember a time when, as students ourselves, we failed to stand up for kids who were being picked on, for whatever reason. Let's do the right thing today by urging our legislature to pass the toughest, most complete anti-bullying legislation possible.

State Senator Matt McCoy
Des Moines, Iowa

Schulz Attacked Unfairly


As expected, when Mike Schulz wrote a negative review of The Passion of the Christ, he elicited a backlash found in the "letters to the editor" last week. (See "A Passionless Review," River Cities' Reader Issue 467, March 10-16, 2004.)

To paraphrase, Schulz was called unoriginal, a liberal censor, unintelligent, and unable to follow a plot or decipher symbolism. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mr. Schulz is an intelligent, honest, and entertaining movie reviewer, and I hope the Reader keeps him for a very long time.

The Passion is a crummy movie, when judged as a movie. Judged as a biblical portrayal of Jesus' last hours, it is biblically accurate, so far as depicting the suffering. But, by focusing only on this suffering, the film ignores Jesus' teachings and spirituality ? something the average Christian should be quite upset about. If you are a Christian and loved the film, it doesn't make you a more faithful person.

Here are some other comments by reviewers around the country: "It's as if Gibson is measuring God's love by the amount of blood he shows on the screen" (L.A. Daily News); "The Passion of the Christ is so relentlessly focused on the savagery of Jesus' final hours that this film seems to arise less from love than from wrath, and to succeed more in assaulting the spirit than in uplifting it" (New York Times).

These reviewers, like Mike, weren't attacking Christians; they were saying how shameful it was that the movie only focused on violence, and not on Christ's message. Not to mention, it ignored plot, storyline, character development, and many other basic ingredients for a movie.

Plus, there are historical inaccuracies in the film, some of which are unintentionally anti-Semitic. For instance, Barabus was a revolutionary who killed Roman oppressors, not a drooling, mentally ill murderer. By choosing Barabus, the Jews looked blood-thirsty instead of torn between "Barabus the patriot" and "Jesus the blasphemer." Not once in the movie did they have second thoughts about crucifying Jesus. Not once did they show any sense of humanity.

Gibson had an agenda with the film, which was to portray Christ's suffering. And unfortunately, that resulted in a narrow film that did not show Christ in a very good light. For many, the Passion is an uplifting film, and that's great. But for people wanting to see a good movie, it stinks.

Devin Hansen
Rock Island

The Raw Deal


Congratulations, John Kerry, for not fudging the truth about the veracity and ethics of George W. Bush and his team. Bush's historical legacy will be his lies about WMDs in Iraq, and a key-phrase search for "Bush lies" on Google yields 2,550 results. Bush regularly gives lip support for various social programs on one day, and then on the next unplugs funding for the same.

He characterizes extensive corporate logging as "saving our forests," and abolishing standards for industrial carbon emissions as "the clean-air act." He is big business' top gopher and ever eager to trip up labor with legislation such as eliminating overtime pay. Bush exclaims, "Support our troops." Then, he cuts benefits to military families and veterans. He allows our troops in Iraq to be provided with supplies that are inferior or run short, forcing our men and women to buy their own. Wounded soldiers are treated like dogs as they languish in miserable accommodations for days or weeks in bases before they receive adequate care for their wounds. Purple hearts are denied and dead soldiers come home in the dark of night to cover up their ballooning numbers.

Vice President Cheney secretly develops the nation's energy plan along with oil and coal executives and denies the public access to the records. And Halliburton, formerly headed by Cheney, receives billions of dollars in federal contracts that weren't bid.

Brother Jeb ordered Bush's Florida campaign manager Katherine Harris to purge from the voting register names of African-American ex-cons along with tens of thousands of others with the same surnames. This crime stole the election from Gore. Brother Neal was caught with his hand in the cookie jar during the savings-and-loan scandal but was saved from jail by a call from his dad in the White House.

Within the ranks of Bush's operatives are the same henchmen that smeared as unpatriotic Senator Max Cleland, who gave three limbs in Vietnam. Now, they are trying to attack Kerry through his wife by twisting her philanthropic works into something questionable. This is not the act of honorable, stand-up men, as the Republicans like to paint themselves; instead it is the act of rats crawling out from under rocks. They are also depicting Kerry as the most liberal man in the Senate. By "liberal," they aren't using the word with its correct definition as a "tolerant person who is concerned about the welfare of others," but instead as their own hateful, corrupted "code word" meaning a "degenerate person." I believe that the Republicans owe Kerry an apology. John Kerry is the "real deal" while George Bush is the "raw deal."

Dan Merica
Fort Wayne, Indiana

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