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UAW “Save Our Jobs Rally” in Kansas City

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon spoke at the United Auto Workers “Save Our Jobs Rally” in the gym at Penn Valley Community College in Kansas City on Sunday, February 8th:

[applause] Thank you. It’s great to be here today with my great friend, Congressman, Representative [Cleaver]. As well as Congressman Moore who has come over from Kansas. We appreciate him being here and… [applause] I especially appreciate his discipline of not wearing any Kansas Jayhawk garb. [laughter] After his, after his…in the great State of Missouri.

I was in Florissant, Missouri about eight or nine weeks ago. We were announcing the expansion of job training in the state of Missouri. And I was walkin’ in to talk to a group of folks that were being trained to work on F-18s for Boeing. And I walked into a friend of mine who I had known from some period of time ago that had been laid off as a autoworker. And he was there, I asked him why he was there, he was there because he was in a retraining class to become a lineman for the electric company – to repair things when there are ice storms. And he’s workin’ right now down in southern Missouri where we still have about 40,000 people out of power. He had not yet completed that class, and he had certainly not yet completed any of the benefits his union had gotten for him even though he had been laid off. But he was there, even though he could be home, getting another skill, not because he wanted to work as a lineman, but because he had faith that we had solidarity together, in Missouri and in this region. That as the auto industry transforms to the auto industry of the future – hybrids, electrics, fuel efficient vehicles – that he wanted to be here in our region, in our state because he had faith in the people sittin’ here and he had faith in you. That when you look at the ledger and you see where the most productive workers in America are you look at Kansas City, Missouri and St. Louis, Missouri. [cheers][applause]…

…On any indices which you look at, how hard people work, how productive they are, how few challenges and problems come from the vehicles that come off the line, Kansas City and St. Louis both rank number one and number two in that. All of us up here are gonna use the power that the electorate has given us to hold for just a little while to make sure not only that we protect the lifestyle and the jobs we have now, but as this domestic auto industry retools and looks to the future, that it grows right here. Okay. Grows. [applause]

Now, not only does what’s happening in the auto industry affect the folks that work on the line. It also has a dramatic effect on the communities, on the suppliers, on the other businesses that tie into this, this web, this economic web that’s formed the backbone. The building of things right here in America, right here in our communities. The using of those finely produced items has a network out there. That is one of the reasons why on my very first day in office I signed an executive order to establish a special working group to put Missouri number one when the auto industry starts moving forward in this country again, to lay out a task force to get the jobs right here. [applause]

Too many high quality hard working people have already been laid off. Too many hard working high quality workers in this country, in this state, in this region aren’t working. So you bet we gotta keep what we got. You bet we gotta protect the turf that we own here. But as we look forward from this day it should be marked not only by a renewed vigor to protect what we already have, but equally, if not more importantly than that, this must be remembered as the touchstone of the place where a new future began. A new future of expanding domestic auto production. A new future for fuel efficient hybrids. A new future for the connections that make this economy work.

So as you work at Claycomo or Fairfax or Fenton, wherever, you shouldn’t feel like you’re alone. You go down to the boot heel of the State of Missouri, I mean way down there, down there where they have that almost inedible Memphis style barbecue. [laughter] There’s a plant down there. Right on the river. Company called Noranda, you probably don’t, you haven’t probably heard of it. ‘Bout nine hundred union steelworkers workin’ that plant in the boot heel. And for those of you who haven’t had to do any organizing lately you try organizing in the boot heel of the State of Missouri. Now friends, that’s God’s work right there. [laughter] Two hundred and sixty million tons of aluminum produced right here in the show me state. They’re working on alloys there for the newest fuel efficient vehicles. They’re working on producing lighter, yet stronger, vehicles that’ll meet the new mileage standards. Those folks in the boot heel they’re counting on us and they’re counting on you, too. They want to provide the parts of the vehicles that you build right here. Okay. They want to continue their shifts and expand their production. And they’re relying on us, right here, to do that.

What we’re the part here, is a big web. A web of making a choice as to whether or not we’re gonna be a country that produces the things that we use or waits on other countries to provide those goods to us. This country was born and expanded because of the strength of our manufacturing base. [applause] We won World War II because of the courage of people in the battle lines, but we also won World War II because of the efficiency and effectiveness of the workers at home provided those battle lines the best products, quickest, as this country sacrificed to make the whole world a free place to live over sixty years ago. Time and time and time again what our manufacturing base has been able to produce has made our jobs safer, and our world better.

So, if there was one thing I would leave you from is that, is that we all have to begin to work to understand how, how gettin’ a job and expanding a line at Fairfax or Claycomo, how that also helps one of your brothers or sisters in the boot heel. How when it comes to carbon fiber technology it’s gonna be necessary for some of the parts of the future that Zoltek in St. Louis holds that, that patent. That when it comes to batteries that can produce more juice the lead for those batteries, over ninety per cent of the domestic lead comes from Iron County in this state.

It is not accidental that the auto industry has been a big part of what we’re, we are. A big part of how we define ourselves as a state. So, as we move forward we can’t ever forget where we’ve been. And we certainly won’t ever forget that we’re ready to compete. But we must continue to educate our friends, our neighbors, our elected officials and everyone else about this, this inteconnectivity. This ways we touch other jobs. Because if we don’t, in a highly competitive world, the’ll build these new plants, they’ll expand these new lines in other places. And that, my friends, is simply not acceptable. We’re ready for ’em right here. [applause]

Giving up on Missouri’s auto, auto industry, is quite frankly, not an option. Okay. It’s not an option [applause] And having our workers move to other states to work, or having them see their stature of living drop for a period of time is unacceptable, too. But I am confident. And the reason I’m confident that things are gonna get better? The reason I am? It is not ’cause of any of the politicians up here. Or me. I don’t mean to single out anybody. we got politicians all over the place. [laughter] It is only though because in the last few opportunities this public in the state has had the chance to speak. And in our, my brother
s from Kansas have had a chance to speak, you and your neighbors have decided that you want to be represented by people that are actually on your side of this fight, okay. [applause]

I like wagering when you gotta good chance to win. You know. It’s always good to bet if you know your team’s better than the other team. Well I want to tell you folks I have been in just darn near every plant. I’be been to darn near every retirees meeting place you could possibly be. I’ve sat down over the last year with basically every group of folks that got clipped or laid off for a period of time. And I want to tell you, a safe bet is bettin’ on the future of the auto industry in our country and in this region. [applause] That’s one we’re gonna make now.

Now I’m out there each day trying to negotiate and try to work to try to make sure we provide the kind of framework here and the kind of place where people can, can expand. As this auto industry comes back, as we get through this down turn, the true success of those states and those people when we come out of this down turn aren’t gonna be on which state was able to figure out how to give the quickest tax breaks to the biggest companies. Okay. It’s gonna, the, the true victory on the back side will be when those companies that do want to expand choose a place to expand. The reason they will choose Missouri to expand to and this region is because of you. It’s because of the workers It’s because of the human capital that we have built up.

I know time are tough. Got a twenty five year high unemployment rate. I know there are challenges. In health care, and education, many other things. But none of those problems will be solved if we give up on the manufacturing base of the United States of America. Not a single one.We, we won’t ever come back. If we’re not building the things we’re buying we won’t ever come back. If we export your lifestyle and the retirees lifestyle to some other country for pennies on the dollar and make us wait for them to provide the things that we drive and live in, then we’ll step backwards.

No one would have given up their Sunday afternoon to be here if thought we were gonna have a discussion about how we were gonna lose. This is a discussion, this is a touchstone spot for how we’re gonna start winning again. Okay. [applause] Winning. [applause]

So, when I was down in the boot heel this weekend I happened to run into a guy that was a friend of the guy who trained as a lineman. Sure enough he was down in the boot heel where they had an ice storm and was workin’ down there. I was tryin’ to find him, but he was one, one step ahead of me most of the day. I figured I’d wait for him at the place they were servin’ lunch, but you know what? He skipped lunch and didn’t come on for lunch because there were people out of power. He worked right on through his lunch hour restore people’s power there, so I didn’t get to, I didn’t get to see my friend. But he’s working as he has been these last few days restoring power, and will until it’s done. Not from the skills he learned in a short course at a community college when he needed to change careers because he got laid off. No, from the skills he learned building the finest automobiles in the world for a decade of work right here in Missouri.

So, as we begin this enterprise of beginning to compete for the new jobs, beginning to compete for the new vehicles, I want you to know that each and every day my self and the other fine officials here get up knowing that we have the best thing to sell in negotiation of anybody anywhere. We got you. The hard workin’ plain speakin’ people of the Midwest.

I’ll pledge to you that I will not get up any morning ever forgettin’ what my job is and we’ll do everything, everything in our power to protect what we have to build a future for you and America. [voice: “Yeah!”] Thank you and God bless. [cheers] [applause]

Photo by Blue Girl.