Vol. 10, No. 48

November 27- December 4, 2002

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Black & Decker: Tools to Avoid For Holiday Gifts

It wasn’t just what Black & Decker did; it was how they did it.

Last week, the Maryland-based tool giant announced that it was closing its Eastern Shore plant and putting 1,300 people out of work. Most of those jobs will be re-located to Mexico; others will shift to Brazil and North Carolina.

The news was a sad and familiar tale we’ve grown accustomed to hearing for more than a decade as big corporations look for people to work more cheaply — and American workers feel the pain.

But there are troubling twists to this tale. For one thing, Black & Decker is a Maryland company that was founded in Baltimore and grew prosperous from Marylanders’ toil and brainpower.

We stress prosperous. A glance at its financial statement on the Internet shows that it has scored over $4 billion in sales every year since 1997. Last year, a down year in profits, it still made $108 million.

Contrast that with the starting salaries of Black & Decker’s soon-to-be jobless workers at Easton: $7.50 an hour.

It’s disturbing, too, how this company treated local and state officials. Until the days before the bomb dropped, Talbot County officials were hard at work trying to assist the company with affordable housing and child-care for its workforce.

Two years ago, when Black & Decker threatened to move its headquarters out of Maryland, the state and Baltimore County put together a $9 million package of incentives to help the company stay in Towson.

That was the year, it turns out, when the company’s profit was $282 million.

There’s a bit of irony here: After the company closes its Chesapeake Bay plant, it will still have three subsidiaries bearing the Chesapeake name — two based in Ireland and one in Luxembourg.

In the wake of Enron’s looting of shareholders and the other recent big-business scandals, we hear a lot about “corporate responsibility.”

Now that this maker of power tools has pulled a devastating powerplay on one of our Chesapeake Bay communities, perhaps we should practice “consumer responsibility” when we make our holiday purchases in the hardware aisle this season.

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly