ANNOUNCER: The numbers just aren't adding up. You run a leaner operation
or you shut down. How many people will you have to let go? Or is there another
Tonight on FRONTLINE, what does it take to stay in business today?
ROBERT EATON, CEO, Chrysler Corporation: We had to go through that
down-sizing period or we wouldn't have survived.
ANNOUNCER: Correspondent Jeff Madrick looks at the hard decisions
companies have to make and the people they affect.
BILL DONNELL: There is no loyalty anymore to the employee of America.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, "Does America Still Work?"
JEFFREY MADRICK, Correspondent: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has been called
the city that works, the city with sweat on its brow. But something has changed
in America and some Milwaukeeans are listening to a new message.
PAT BUCHANAN, (R), Presidential Candidate: Corporate profits are
soaring! I don't mind corporate profits soaring, but why aren't the working men
and women and the American families sharing, if the times are good?
JEFFREY MADRICK: The day before the 1996 primary, Patrick Buchanan
brought his anti-corporate message to town.
PAT BUCHANAN: We got to stand up for that idea and that ideal, something
called a "living wage" for the men and women of America, and these trade deals
have sold that out. You and I know it.
BUCHANAN SUPPORTER: I_ I got a job. I don't want to see it go away
because they can find someone that_ that'll work for less than what I'm
getting. I want it_ I want it there and_ so I'll be able to support my
JEFFREY MADRICK: Buchanan received nearly 40 percent of the Republican
vote in Milwaukee. He touched a nerve not only here, but across the nation. Now
the mainstream candidates are echoing him.
Pres. BILL CLINTON: Many of our largest companies are laying off
workers, some of them because they have to to compete in the global economy.
Some of them are doing it even when their profits are going up.
JEFFREY MADRICK: The electoral battle for the hearts and minds of the
"anxious class" is in full swing.
Sen. ROBERT DOLE, (R), Kansas, Presidential Candidate: Corporate profits
are setting records, but so are corporate lay-offs. There's a wide and growing
gap between what the government statistics say about our economy and how
Americans feel about it.
JEFFREY MADRICK: After a decade and a half of down-sizing and lay-offs,
corporate America has borne much of the blame this election season. Robert
Eaton, the chairman of the Chrysler Corporation, takes exception.
ROBERT EATON: Now, I don't mean to get personal, but my mother has been
my biggest fan over the years. At least she was until recently. Now the poor
lady is getting confused. That's because every time she opens a magazine or
turns on the television, she's told that people like me are no good. She reads
that people like me like to fire thousands of other people so we can impress
Wall Street and get bigger bonuses for ourselves.
Oh, I_ this_ you know, I'm trying to address all of this stuff. I mean, the_
the_ the rhetoric out there is absolutely not in agreement with the facts.
JEFFREY MADRICK, Correspondent: Well, I know you've criticized the
Newsweek piece, the New York Times down-sizing piece. You_ are
you saying they're just plain wrong?
ROBERT EATON: Oh, absolutely. I think it's_ it's just sensationalism
that just absolutely makes my blood boil. The number one responsibility that we
have is survival so that we can, you know, employ people, so that we can pay
taxes, so that we can contribute to the community. And_ and to_ to say that_
that_ that management, you know, their whole objective is to_ is to reduce
employees, they don't care what happens and_ it just is_ shows a recognition of
simply not understanding the world at all.
JEFFREY MADRICK: Rudy Kuzel heads the United Auto Workers local at
Chrysler's Kenosha plant just south of Milwaukee.
RUDY KUZEL, President: There's so much, to use their own euphemism,
"down-sizing" and temporary employees, sometimes I think of this economy as a
game of musical chairs and for every 100 people, there's only 20 or 25 chairs.
And when the music stops, 20 or 25 have got good jobs and the rest of them are
standing. Now they've got part-time jobs or crummy jobs, but they don't have a
JEFFREY MADRICK: In Milwaukee, as in much of America, job security was
once the norm, but it's increasingly harder to come by. One by one, many of the
big corporations that made this city famous have either left or cut their
Reporter Jack Norman has covered business here for the last 14 years. He
writes for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
JACK NORMAN: Nobody can breathe easy. The place I work was so
secure, so comforting, we called it "Ma Journal." "Ma Journal" last year threw
hundreds and hundreds of people out. It will happen anywhere, it can happen any