Rep. Lipinski Intercedes; Defense Pact Stays in U.S.
October 18, 2011
By Steve Metsch
After surviving the Great Recession and losing half his work force, Marty Flaska was not happy when he learned last year that he would be losing a contract with the Defense Department to South Korea.
Flaska owns Hoist Liftruck, 6499 W. 65th St., Bedford Park, which is one of two American companies that make forklifts.
Flaska said he was stunned when he learned that the federal government had awarded a $670,000 contract for four 18-ton forklifts to a South Korean company — especially when the Buy American Act encourages the government to award contracts to American companies.
Flaska talked with U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd), who said he was “absolutely appalled” by the contract and contacted Pentagon officials to express his displeasure with it. At his urging, the contract was re-bid and awarded to Hoist Liftruck.
On Tuesday, on the floor of the factory, standing near gleaming yellow-and-black forklifts, Lipinski announced that the contract was staying in America, preserving 40 jobs at Hoist.
He said it’s not clear why the Pentagon initially awarded the contract to South Korea. At first, he got a “boilerplate response” that the pact complied with the Buy American Act, but that claim didn’t hold up to scrutiny, the congressman said. “This is clearly a victory against the offshoring of American jobs, a trend that is disturbing and is undermining the middle class in America and hurting our community,” Lipinski said.
“I grew up a mile from here, and I know that manufacturing used to be in this area. There are still some manufacturers that remain here, and I applaud them for the work they are doing against tough odds, fighting against foreign competitors.”
Hoist, in business for 17 years, now has 150 workers, about half as many as before the recession, but assembler Michael Pickens said it’s a good place to work. He’s been there four years. “I’ve been laid off, but they’ve called me back every time,” Pickens, 39, said. “... We’re very busy now, but I wish we were a little busier. If we get more contracts like this, it will be very nice.”
Randy Jahn, director of business development at Hoist, said the defense contract “supports many jobs at Hoist, and many jobs throughout the manufacturing belt in the Midwest. ... It’s about maintaining jobs and growing jobs. That’s what we have to keep fighting for every day given the hard economic times.”
Lipinski took time Tuesday to tout the Buy American Improvement Act that he has introduced in Congress. It cuts down on loopholes found in the current law, he said, and would require that 75 percent of a product be made in America for it to be called “American made.”
Lipinski also ripped the South Korea Free Trade Agreement, approved last week by Congress, which he said would cost Americans jobs.
“The bottom line is these trade agreements are only good for multi-national corporations who want to move their jobs overseas,” he said.” Studies show 159,000 American jobs will be lost with the South Korea Free Trade Agreement.”
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