May 4, 2007 Volume 108 Number 9

Freightliner cutbacks have ripple effects

With Freightliner shifting truck production to Mexico, the company’s workers aren't the only ones affected.

In Saltillo, Mexico, where Freightliner is spending $300 million to build a new truck plant, the company expects to hire 1,600 workers. Companies that supply Freightliner are also putting $125 million of new investment into Saltillo, and it’s expected 1,100 workers will be employed indirectly when production begins in 2009.

On this side of the border, when Freightliner sent 802 Portland union workers packing March 30, hundreds of workers at other companies also felt the sting.

Consolidated Metco, Inc., which supplies aluminum castings used in truck hubs, laid off 24 members of Machinists Lodge 1432 at its North Portland plant — about two-fifths of its workforce there. Late last year the company also laid off 17 union members at its Clackamas, Oregon, plant, which makes aluminum die cast products.

Auto Truck Transport, which ships finished trucks, laid off about 50 Machinist Lodge 63 -represented drivers and shop crew simultaneous to the Freightliner layoffs at Swan Island. About 75 workers remain.

Molded Fiber Glass, a 28-employee nonunion Stevenson, Wash., manufacturer, made hoods and roof caps for Freightliner sleeper cabs. Company officials wouldn’t comment on the lost business, but the Daily Columbian reported that it depended on Freightliner for a large share of its sales.

Other affected nonunion businesses include Trim Systems, a subsidiary of Commercial Vehicle Group, which makes upholstery and plastic trim at a Vancouver, Washington facility; and WW Metal Fab in Milwaukie, Oregon, which makes bumpers and grilles and zinc phosphate coatings for Freightliner military vehicles. WW bought its machines from Freightliner when the truck maker closed its parts plant.

Several local Freightliner suppliers may weather the lost business. Non-union Paramount Mattress Company in Tualatin, Oregon, made mattresses for the Freightliner sleeper cabs. Though its business with Freightliner will drop by 60 percent, company president Nels Lewis said they haven’t had to lay off any employees because they saw it coming and diversified with other business in the last two years. Service Steel, which makes parts for Freightliner, also said it won’t be negatively impacted by the shift in production, because it will ship the parts it makes to Mexico.

The ripple effect also extends to companies outside manufacturing. The 7-11, Subway and McDonalds down the street from the Swan Island plant saw a drop in sales. The vending machine supplier at the company cafeteria, who works on commission, lost business, as did the food carts that set up outside the plant gate. Kaiser Permanente, Cigna and Blue Cross, which provided health coverage, will lose business.

While it may be impossible to quantify, the ripples are real.

Home | About

© Oregon Labor Press Publishing Co. Inc.