Travel Channel's Ratzenberger to tout American manufacturing

Visits Rock Hill this week

John Ratzenberger, who played know-it-all mail carrier Cliff in the 1980s hit sitcom "Cheers," will be in Rock Hill on Wednesday spreading his message on the value of American manufacturing in a town hall meeting at the Freedom Center.

Ratzenberger, host of the Travel Channel's "Made in America" series, recently told The Herald his mission is to encourage voters to ask presidential candidates questions about outsourcing and domestic manufacturing.

He's touring several early-voting primary states for the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a joint effort between the Steelworkers Union and several manufacturing companies.

"I'm not telling you to vote for a particular candidate. Both parties are at fault for destroying our middle class. ... We need to be asking these candidates tough questions," he said. "Why are they giving away jobs to other countries? Why aren't our politicians standing up to outsourcing?"

Local jobs lost

Rock Hill resident Mark West, a tire builder for 28 years at Continental Tire in Charlotte, said Wednesday's meeting is significant because it gives a prominent voice to an issue that has hit home locally.

West said his tire building job was shipped to South America last year, joining jobs at Springs textile mills and other companies that have recently laid off workers and sent jobs overseas.

West said South Carolina voters should ask candidates to protect manufacturing jobs for future generations.

"When I was growing up, it was fairly easy to find a good manufacturing job with fair pay and health benefits. That's not the case anymore," West said. "I would encourage everyone to ask the candidate of their choice about the outsourcing issue."

'Cancer spreading'

Ratzenberger, who has done voice cameos in several Pixar cartoons, including "Cars" and "Toy Story," said he has seen the decline in American manufacturing jobs as he tours the nation highlighting products made in America for his Travel Channel program.

"Because of my show, I get to connect the dots. Most people don't realize it's a cancer spreading across the country," he said.

During Wednesday's non-partisan meeting, Ratzenberger will describe how sending manufacturing jobs overseas can be harmful to America. He said national security is at risk because the country lacks the production power it had during World War II.

Environmental concerns are heightened by outsourcing, he said, because other countries have more lenient standards. And despite initially lower costs, Ratzenberger said the overall economy suffers when jobs are shipped overseas because investments are made in foreign communities and workforces instead of in America.

"It's more expensive to buy Chinese goods, not only to your pocketbook, but also to the American way of life. You'll never see a Chinese company's name on your kid's Little League uniform," Ratzenberger said.

He said communities can begin reversing the trend by asking questions and placing more emphasis on job training.

"We need to give more respect to the kids in shop classes at school. It's great to send your kid to college, but let's not forget about the men and women who laid the bricks and made the steel to build that college," Ratzenberger said. "Manufacturing is everything we're built on."

Adam O'Daniel • 329-4069