AFSCME Local 3088 President Dan Mapes is as pleased as anyone that Mansfield has finally emerged from years of fiscal emergency and has started replacing the city’s inventory of aging equipment.
But his members and many in the community are at odds with the city’s decision to ditch its decades old “buy American” policy. Mapes spoke out when three new Nissan vans showed up in the municipal garage.
Glad the city has begun upgrading its vehicle fleet, Mapes said he was disturbed the new arrivals were the only “foreign” vehicles the city owned. When Mapes raised the question at a city council meeting, the administration said the move was justified because the foreign vehicles were $3,000 less than comparable American-made vans, and claimed the vans were U.S. manufactured in Tennessee.
A little detective work by Mapes using the Nissan’s VIN numbers showed all the vans were actually made in Mexico. “And the lowest price is not the same as the best value,” he said. He noted that city mechanics don’t have the diagnostic tools or the training to work these vehicles.
“I believe when these vehicles need maintenance, they will be out of service longer because the city will have to wait in line at the dealership and the city will have to pay dealer rates for repairs. Over the long haul, I see that eating up any money that was saved on the purchase price,” Mapes said.
According to Mapes, the union’s activism had an effect. After being roundly criticized for the Nissan purchase, the administration dropped plans to buy two Honda vans in favor of Chevrolet vehicles.
The thing that stung about this was the fact that it happened at the same time they were tearing down the closed GM plant which opened up old wounds dating back more than 20 years.
The Mansfield community was torn apart in 1999, when Armco Steel locked out 600 United Steel Workers and used scab labor to run the mill for 39 months in a bitter, and at times violent, contract dispute that was finally resolved in late 2002.
And the 2009 closure of the GM stamping plant during the “Great Recession”, cost more than 1,000 good paying jobs. A price the community of 52,000 is still paying.