For three years now, the Ford assembly plant where I work has been on borrowed time. Ford wants to close the St. Paul plant and stop making Ranger trucks in North America. The Ranger is all we make, so if the Ranger goes, we go.
When Ford announced its plans to close the plant, it gave us a choice: Take a buyout, or take your chances. Those who took a buyout would give up some of their benefits and their job security, but they could keep working for a while. Those who refused the buyout might keep their jobs, but they would risk being transferred to another plant.
I chose the buyout. Short-term reprieves have kept the plant operating, so I'm still working. As of now, my job will end in September of 2011, when the reprieves run out and Ford idles the plant.
But I hope it doesn't happen, and not only because I like my job.
I take great pride in what I do. At the end of the day, I can look myself in the mirror. I know I've done 10 hours of work for 10 hours of pay. And I know that the product I put out is a good one.
A friend of mine was in an accident in a Ranger, and if it hadn't been built the way it was, he wouldn't have lived. I feel confident in every caliper I put on that truck, and I feel confident in the next person. These are highly motivated, well-rounded people who want to do a good job. They know what they do and do it very well.
It's a workforce worth keeping intact.
And Ford is an employer worth keeping in Minnesota. People don't realize that Ford has been making cars here for almost 100 years. The Ford Centre, in the shadow of the new Twins ballpark, used to be a factory that turned out Model T's. It's on the National Register of Historic Places. And in Highland Park the company has been building cars or trucks for 80 years.
I went there 10 years ago because it was steady work that paid better than the theater jobs I'd had until then, but many people have been there all their careers.
I know what the plant means to their families, and to mine. So when a politician or a civic leader speaks up about saving the Ford plant, I pay attention. There's been a lot of such talk in the last few years, though not much else.
Now city and state officials have offered Ford a package of incentives under the state's CARZ program. They are even raising the idea of buying the buildings and land and leasing them back to Ford, to give the company an infusion of cash. They recognize that the land has value, the plant has value and the workforce has value. To have any chance of keeping Ford here, the city and state needed to make a bold initiative. I think this is a bold initiative.
A man who works near me said it isn't going to do any good; he doesn't know why they're making the effort. I'm not of that opinion. It's a great first step. I hope it works.
Mitchell Frazier, Minneapolis, works at Ford's Twin Cities Assembly Plant in St. Paul.