On Monday, December 7th the city will host the first annual report of the Fiat Chrysler (FCA) Community Benefit Agreement for the Jefferson Avenue Plant expansion. The meeting fulfills a requirement of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) signed by the Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) in April of 2019.
Since the project was announced residents have demanded reduced emissions, better environmental protections and more money for adjacent residents to make their homes safe to live in. They have not been heard over the constant reference to promised jobs and Chrysler’s self-aggrandizing public relations campaign. The focus on jobs feeds into many Detroiters affinity for and identification with being ‘the motor city’.
Yet many feel a debt and connection to Chrysler. But we can’t look past the changes in the company since ‘the good ol’ days’. This isn’t your grandparent’s Chrysler. This is Fiat-Chrysler; FCA, a global player worth billions. The company is merging with French-rivals PSA to become an entity called STELLANTIS. Registered in the Netherlands, STELLANTIS will include 14 brands: Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Citroën, Dodge, DS, Fiat, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, Opel, Peugeot, Ram and Vauxhall.
Detroiters and people everywhere need jobs. However, jobs should be an outcome of successful business and equitable economic development. Jobs shouldn’t be positioned as an excuse or cover for injustice. The emphasis on jobs coming from the media, the administration, City Council, FCA and the Public Relations group FCA have hired is misleading.
In reality, Chrysler was never great. Many long-time labor activist and factory workers will attest to that. But now the tables are turned and we, taxpayers in Detroit as well as the rest of Michigan are being made to cover nearly half the cost of this project. FCA has been approved for over $400 Million in public funding while they just posted $1.4 Billion net profits in the 3rd quarter alone this year, during a pandemic.