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Tohoku Quake Hits Kentucky

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This is no good:

Toyota said Monday it is inevitable the company will be forced to shut down all of its North American factories — including its largest, in Georgetown — because of parts shortages due to the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan. But the company later countered The Associated Press’s report, noting it has not changed its stance on the “likely” nature of production interruptions.

Toyota spokesman Mike Goss told the AP in Louisville on Monday that the temporary shutdowns are likely to take place later this month, affecting 25,000 workers.

No workers would be laid off, Rick Hesterberg, spokesman for the Georgetown plant, told the Herald-Leader. They would be given three options, as they have during previous work stoppages: take paid vacation; take unpaid time off; or work a normal shift focusing on general maintenance, training or process improvement instead of the traditional assembly work.

Just how long shutdowns last or whether all 13 of Toyota’s North American factories will be affected at the same time is unknown and depends on when parts production can restart in Japan, Goss told the AP.

Toyota later stressed that the company continues “to assess our supply base in Japan.”

Obviously, this isn’t great for the workers at the Georgetown plant, but it’s indicative of how the modern international industrial economy functions. With the gigantic exception of allowing unionization, Toyota fortunately tends to pursue worker friendly policies. Toyota is enormously popular in Kentucky, and not just for the excellent sushi restaurants it’s brought to Lexington and environs. I toured the Georgetown plant last year with the new crop of Patterson students, and can say that the experience of visiting a giant, modern industrial facility is genuinely awe-inspiring.

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  • In reference to the Toyota factory in Kentucky, you state that “the experience of visiting a giant, modern industrial facility is genuinely awe-inspiring.”

    I wonder what you saw. Perhaps you could expand a bit. Thx.

    • Robert Farley

      We saw the Camry/Avalon line pretty much the whole way through. Fascinating to watch the materials being shifted from one part to the other, workers on the line, giant presses, robots, etc. It’s hard to describe in any more detail, but I heartily recommend the tour.

  • Davis X. Machina

    No company can maintain profitability with such policies.

    Toyota needs to seize this opportunity — shut-down, plus recession — to fire all their idled workers, and re-hire the most desperate at about $11.60 an hour, no benefits.

    When will Toyota finally come to understand that the three most beautiful words in English are ‘exceeded analysts’ estimates’?

  • Mikebdot

    It’s not just Kentucky. The plant just north of Evansville is freaking huge.

  • joe from Lowell

    No workers would be laid off, Rick Hesterberg, spokesman for the Georgetown plant, told the Herald-Leader. They would be given three options, as they have during previous work stoppages: take paid vacation; take unpaid time off; or work a normal shift focusing on general maintenance, training or process improvement instead of the traditional assembly work.

    Holy crap. They do that?

    Toyota might be the best company in the world.

    • It’s the sort of benevolence that anti-union types like to point to, while completely ignoring the lack of such policies in the other 99.9% of companies.

      From what I understand, this is typical of Japanese companies in Japan. Although, listening to my students describe the bizarreness of the management-union relationship is truly awe-inspiring.

    • jackd

      If all three of those options are available to everyone, then yes, that’s fantastic.

      I suspect – and let me say upfront I have done zero homework on this – that the training and process improvement option is limited to some percentage of the workforce. They offer it to the most-preferred groups first (in a union shop it would be by seniority) and if there are slots left as you move down the list, others get a shot.

      If you’re bottom of the list and don’t have vacation left, unpaid leave may be the only option.

  • wengler

    Japan also doesn’t cannibalize its economy to give their multi-billionaires a little bit more.

    • BigHank53

      But Eisenhower’s top marginal tax rates are un-possible! Laffer proved it!

  • Jennifer Wiles

    So what about all the temp workers?Will they be laid off or get the three options as well?

  • Hahahaha, this is horlaiius "If you thought you couldn't take the kids into a gay dance club on Easter morning, you were WRONG." I guess I was wrong! Too funny. Hope you have a great weekend, no matter if you decide to talk Old English or scramble up your eggs :)

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