OPINION: Auto industry is too important to Tennessee to put at risk

OPINION: Auto industry is too important to Tennessee to put at risk


When the biggest Recession in our country’s history hit Tennessee nearly a decade ago, the auto industry in our state was impacted greatly.

One of our biggest economic engines in our state was affected and I wasn’t sleeping very well worrying about the potential effect this would have on our automotive plant and more importantly, on the men and women who work in that plant every day. In retrospect, the impact was great, with the majority of our people being laid off indefinitely or having to move from their home in Tennessee in order to work and take care of their families. Not only did our members get hurt, the suppliers who provide us parts and services were impacted very hard also, as well as the City of Spring
Hill and many Middle Tennessee counties and communities too.

It is wonderful to be able to say, that ten years later The GM Spring Hill Plant is in much better shape. We are running two shifts with a bright future in front of us. In fact, our plant is preparing to add a third shift, for new products that we will build, which will provide an additional 700 good-paying jobs for working people in our state.

Spring Hill is home to one of three auto manufacturing plants in the state of Tennessee. Beyond our community, nearly one third of all manufacturing jobs are related to the auto industry. In fact, there are automotive operations in 87 out of all 95 counties. As a proud union member, I have been humbled to represent the hard-working men and women of UAW Local 1853 for over 16 years. Despite the storms that we weathered during the Great Recession, our members and workers, have now received record bonuses for several years in a row, for the hard work they do each day. Nothing means more to me than knowing that my brothers and sisters are able to earn good wages and benefits that allow them to support their families.

Unfortunately, all that growth and progress we have worked hard to achieve is now at risk. The recently announced tariffs, if allowed to be enacted, will have a direct effect on the State of Tennessee and especially the automotive industry in our great state. While the potential impact is not fully known at this time, I do know that for every automotive job lost at the three auto manufacturing plants in our state, another 6-9 jobs are also lost outside those plants. These are the workers in the communities that support those plants.

Additionally, the taxes that these plants pay would be reduced, putting a bigger burden on those 87 counties and the cities in them also. Ask the Maury County and City of Spring Hill Leaders what happened, when the great recession hit … HARD!

I am glad to see that our state’s two senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, know that these tariffs are a bad deal for Tennesseans. They understand the impact they will have on Tennessee if allowed to be put in place. Simply put, they are nothing more than a job-killing tax on our state.

Sen. Corker has gone even further by proposing legislation to stop the tariffs from going into effect. We as working men and women, need more of that kind of leadership in Washington: leaders who are willing to put Tennessee first, over partisan politics.

Sen. Corker has chosen to retire from the Senate, when his current term is up at the end of the year. We need to replace him with someone who will stand up for all the citizens of Tennessee, for all the working men and women across our great state. I believe that there is only one applicant who is the right person for the job: Gov. Phil Bredesen.
Over the past weeks, Gov. Bredesen has made it abundantly clear where he stands on this very important issue, while his likely opponent, Congressman Marsha Blackburn has continued to waffle around, not coming out and supporting the working men and women of Tennessee, and waiting for these tariffs to kill our good paying jobs. She doesn’t get how these tariffs will affect Tennessee’s hard-working men and women.

Recently, Gov. Bredesen called on both Democrats and Republicans in Washington to put partisan politics aside, and work together to stop these tariffs. That’s the kind of leader he is, and that’s exactly the kind of leader we need. He has a proven track record of reaching across the aisle to put Tennesseans’ needs first. It’s what he did during his time as Nashville Mayor, Governor of Tennessee, and what I know he will continue to do as a U.S. Senator.

These tariffs are already planned to go into effect, and we will soon be feeling their impact in the pocketbook of communities across Tennessee, that rely on the jobs provided by the auto industry.

We have a legacy of sending independent leaders to Washington to find common sense solutions for our state. Gov. Phil Bredesen is the tested and trusted leader we need to stand up for Tennessee, cut through the Washington nonsense, and get things done.

Michael D. Herron has been United Auto Workers Chairman at Spring Hill General Motors Plant for the past 16 years with a total of 32 years in the UAW.

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