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Factory Jobs Loss Changing Political Landscape

Jeremy Sprinkle
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Clifford Ayers by Media General News ServiceCliff Ayers of Eden, NC

Layoffs lead to new priorities for voters in N.C.

Media General News Service on Friday highlighted factory workers in small towns like Cleveland and Eden, NC who have to reconcile their politics with some new, unwelcome circumstances.

John Stewart was a proud Republican who voted for George W. Bush twice.

That was before the truck manufacturer he worked for, Freightliner, built a second plant in Mexico, and before Stewart and 1,500 other workers lost their jobs here in June.

"I understand the world needs trade," Stewart said. "But when it costs us jobs going to China, Mexico, there's nothing free or fair about that."

There's no denying it. Free trade agreements have hit North Carolina hard. Textile, furniture, and other manufacturing job losses have devastated communities and continue to do so. The pain is felt by Democrats and Republicans alike.

Clifford Ayers once had steady work on the line at the same rug plant in Eden. Though he still has a job, the plant has cut back on shifts, and he has not worked in three weeks.

Ayers, a self-described conservative Democrat, voted for Bush in 2004 largely because he identified with the Republican's anti-abortion stance. This year, that issue has taken a back seat to the economy.

"I'm not foolish enough to believe that we wake up tomorrow and all these textile companies will come back. But we have to stop the bleeding," said Lewis Dishmon, a local union leader.

Read the full story at Media General's Washington Bureau web site.