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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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