The bankruptcy of electric vehicle battery maker A123 Systems earlier this week turned a spotlight on the struggles of the Obama administration’s push for green jobs of the future around electric cars, which has fallen short in employment and production. Now a new report says in one Michigan plant, built with $151 million in federal money to assemble battery cells for the Chevrolet Volt, workers have been paid for months to do nothing. According to WOOD-TV of Grand Rapids, Mich., the 300 workers at the LG Chem plant in nearby Holland have yet to ship a single production battery cell since the plant opened late last year. While employees have built battery cells for testing, those were shipped back to LG Chem’s home labs in South Korea months ago, leaving workers to do odd jobs around the factory, volunteer for community projects or just sit and play Monopoly. Several say training also stopped months ago, leading some employees to quit in frustration.
Posts Tagged With: stimulus
President Barack Obama vowed in February 2009 that the economic stimulus legislation he was signing would create construction jobs for 400,000 people building and rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure.
But despite a price tag now estimated at $833 billion, there are 925,000 fewer construction jobs in the United States than in February 2009, and 1,035,000 fewer than when Obama was inaugurated, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
And there are even 484,000 fewer jobs than when the last recession officially ended in June 2009.
When Obama signed the stimulus bill in Denver, Colo., he told a crowd: “Because we know we can’t build our economic future on the transportation and information networks of the past, we are remaking the American landscape with the largest new investment in our nation’s infrastructure since Eisenhower built an Interstate Highway System in the 1950s.
“Because of this investment, nearly 400,000 men and women will go to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, repairing our faulty dams and levees, bringing critical broadband connections to businesses and homes in nearly every community in America, upgrading mass transit, building high-speed rail lines that will improve travel and commerce throughout our nation.”
But in September 2012, according to the BLS, 5,523,000 Americans had jobs in the construction industry, down from 6,558,000 in January 2009, when Obama took office, and down from 6,448,000 in February 2009, when Obama signed the stimulus.
It is also down from 5,564,000 in January of this year, when Obama started the fourth year of his term.
Two years after a groundbreaking ceremony attended by President Obama, a Michigan plant built with $150 million in taxpayer funds to make batteries for hybrid vehicles is putting workers on furlough — before a single battery has been produced.
Employees at the Compact Power manufacturing plant in Holland, Mich., are working only three weeks a month due to a lack of demand for lithium-ion cells.
The plant — run by LG Chem, a South Korean company — was opened in July 2010 to make batteries for the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid vehicle built by GM. But the car has seen sluggish sales, despite a $7,500 federal tax credit for each vehicle, and fewer than 25,000 Volts had been sold by September. Production of the car has been plagued by several plant shutdowns.
“Considering the lack of demand for electric vehicles, despite billions of dollars from the Obama administration that were supposed to stimulate it, it’s not surprising what has happened with LG Chem,” Paul Chesser, an associate fellow with the National Legal and Policy Center, told Fox News.
“Just because a ton of money is poured into a product does not mean that people will buy it.”
The $300 million plant was supposed to produce 15,000 batteries per year and create hundreds of new jobs. But so far just 200 workers are employed at the plant, and batteries for the Volts are instead being made by an LG Chem plant in South Korea.
The Michigan plant has spent the past two years building infrastructure and conducting pre-production “test runs,” Fox reported.
The factory was partly funded by a $150 million grant from the U.S. Energy Department, and received tax breaks from the local government worth nearly $50 million over 15 years in property taxes and $2.5 million a year in business taxes.
Obama told workers at the groundbreaking ceremony: “You are leading the way in showing how manufacturing jobs are coming right back here to the United States.”
But former congressman and 2012 Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra, whose House district included Holland, said the stimulus plan that provided funds for the plant “was designed to create jobs in the short term. It doesn’t exactly meet the criteria of stimulus for me.”
And Kelsey Knight, a spokeswoman for the Mitt Romney presidential campaign in Michigan, said in a statement reported by the Holland Sentinel that “a factory that produces nothing and furloughs workers is a symbol of where American is going under [Obama’s] failed policies.”
Footnote: An LG Chem spokesman said workers who are on furloughs one week a month are eligible to collect unemployment benefits for that week.