Sunday, February 28, 2010

Whirlpool Update - 19.3 Million Taxpayer Dollars

Disclosure: Whirlpool Corporation is not a competitor to my own company.

A company's reputation and public image is very important.  Companies often spend a bundle to carefully craft their image for consumers and no company looks forward to bad publicity.

A brand name is carefully developed and promoted with the hope it will embed itself in the conscious and subconscious minds of consumers.  I cultivate and guard the reputation of my own brand as will my son after me.

Whirlpool, the company and the brand enjoyed decades of consumer trust and regard. They are a splendid example though of how a brand is betrayed.

I wrote a post in September 2009 about Whirlpool and there is now more to write about the company.

Whirlpool is presently engaged in damage control. There is fallout from their decision to close their Evansville, Indiana plant.

Whirlpool is not committed to U.S. manufacturing, precisely why they sit on our watch list. They've spent years closing U.S. plants and moving production abroad to low wage countries. They have several plants in Mexico where they will pay inexperienced workers $70.00 per week after they close the Evansville plant. Whirlpool is presently busy removing equipment & machinery from the plant and shipping it to Mexico.

It does not matter that my company and the thousands we list on our site can compete in the marketplace. It does not matter that G.E. returned to the U.S. to manufacture appliances. It does not matter that Evansville extended numerous tax breaks to Whirlpool and community members, including Whirlpool employees actually subsidized the corporation. It does not matter that Whirlpool applied for and received $19.3 million taxpayer dollars in stimulus funds to offset their research costs. It also does not matter that Whirlpool enjoys about $19 billion per year in sales.

Even though the rest of us can compete - what matters is that appliance giant Whirlpool is unable to compete, even with taxpayer assistance. Whirlpool Corporation can only afford $1.75 per hour employees.

This is Mr. Jeff Fettig, CEO of Whirlpool Corporation.

You and I know the buck stops at his desk but you'll have to excuse him because he's been preoccupied.

Whirlpool Corporation is headquartered in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Ever since Whirlpool and other manufacturers moved production from Benton Harbor, the area has been in decline and a state of decay set in with high unemployment and poverty. The cruel and deplorable results of offshoring lay just outside Whirlpool's doors. Rather than witness & comprehend what their management & policies delivered to their fellow Americans, Whirlpool sought to remake the area as a community befitting a global corporation.

Mr. Fettig, like the CEO before him wanted a "world class community" with a world class golf course. Mr. Fettig and a developer were busy for several years battling with local residents over a public park.

In 1917, 73 acres of land situated on Lake Michigan were donated to the townspeople of Benton Harbor in perpetuity. It was known as Jean Klock Park.

John & Carrie Klock deeded the property to the city in honor of their deceased daughter, Jean.

"Perhaps some of you do not own a foot of ground, remember then, that this is your park, it belongs to you. Perhaps some of you have no piano or phonograph, the roll of the water murmuring in calm, roaring in storm, is your music, your piano and music box... The beach is yours, the drive is yours, the dunes are yours, all yours. It is not so much a gift from my wife and myself, it's a gift from a little child. See to it, that the park is the children's." - John Nellis Klock

The community treasured their park and fought for it but Whirlpool needed that lakefront property for their world class golf course. The majestic Lake Michigan views are now for Mr. Fettig and other Whirlpool executives to enjoy.

The developer, Harbor Shores did receive at least 120 million in funding and tax incentives from the state of Michigan. To compensate for the community's reduction in public parkland, Harbor Shores swapped some other parcels of land for the desired public property. It turned out that those other parcels were contaminated with dangerous levels of lead, arsenic, volatile organic compounds, and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons. The Harbor Shores Board President is David Whitwam, retired Whirlpool CEO. I'm sure Mr. Whitwam considered a swap of contaminated inland parcels for pristine lake front public property a square deal.

This is Mr. David R. Whitwam, Retired Whirlpool CEO, Harbor Shores Board President.
Whirlpool insisted that the course would benefit the community. Per capita income for Benton Harbor is $8,965, the lowest in Michigan. If you are in the area and you'd like to play this course rather than the numerous other courses in the vicinity, schedule a tee time two weeks in advance and take about $175.00 with you - the cost of a round of golf.

I have no doubt that such a course is a morale booster for Whirlpool executives. As I recall time spent at my club, the course is a relaxing place to discuss business. I don't expect any Whirlpool executives to catch a clue though by the 18th hole as they ponder ways to approach damage control.

You see the 1,000 American workers in Evansville are understandably displeased with the closure of their plant. As Americans with strongly held views will do, they planned a demonstration outside their workplace. Upon learning of these plans, one of Whirlpool's executives laid down his golf club long enough to send a memo to those employees explaining that "these negative activities will only hamper employees when they look for future jobs."

The purpose of the memo was to limit publicity and public awareness of Whirlpool's actions. Whirlpool prefers to discreetly export American jobs while reaching into taxpayers pockets. After all, they do have a brand to protect.

Whirlpool attempted to intimidate their employees who held their demonstration anyway and have now filed a Federal case against Whirlpool with the National Labor Relations Board.

In a recent interview Mr. Fettig was asked the following question:

"Ethics has also been a big issue in the press. Some companies and some sectors in particular have been hit very hard by ethical issues. Are you doing anything differently in this arena?"

This was Mr. Fettig's answer to the question:

"We have had a long history, dating back to the beginning of the company, of being a very ethical and morally responsible company. It is part of our culture. We evaluate people on ethics. We have a very broad compliance and training program. We have a saying at Whirlpool: There's no right way to do the wrong thing. At the same time, we are a big global company. We have 70,000 people in 170 different countries. You always worry that someone somewhere could do something that is not appropriate."

Next year, Whirlpool will market their new smart dryers which you, the American taxpayer helped finance. They will only cost you about $10.00 to $20.00 more and are expected to save you between $20.00 and $40.00 per year in electric costs. Sales are down for Whirlpool and they no doubt have high hopes for this innovation. By 2015 they will incorporate this technology into all their electric appliances they produce worldwide.

This U.S. taxpayer funded innovation could improve sales for Whirlpool - well, unless someone somewhere did something that was not appropriate and hurt their brand.

Mary - Proud American manufacturer and webperson for

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