Moraine: General Motors Corp.’s financial woes have GM workers around the country worrying about what life without GM might be like. The 1,080 hourly workers at the automaker’s sport utility plant in this Dayton suburb are about to find out. For them, life without GM begins on Tuesday.
That’s when the automaker pulls the plug on the plant that over the past 27 years has spit out cars, trucks and SUVs, helped pay mortgages and college educations, and provided a security blanket in turbulent times.
“The news was devastating at first,” said Jackie Wilson, a 39-year-old mother who has spent 15 years at the plant. “It’s all I’ve known.”
GM and other US automakers are mired in a sales slump because of the economic downturn, tight or nonexistent credit and lack of consumer confidence. So far this year, GM alone has announced 11,000 US layoffs.
Stress on the workers at the Moraine plant has been mounting since June, when GM announced it would close the plant because high gasoline prices were driving consumers away from the SUVs made there.
Other GM plants could soon be facing a similar fate.
In Janesville, Wisconsin, GM will cease making SUVs on Tuesday, putting 1,200 workers out of work. The plant will stay open until June to produce trucks along with Isuzu, but only about 50 workers will remain employed for that.
The White House threw GM and Chrysler LLC a lifeline on Friday, offering $17.4 billion in rescue loans. On Sunday, Vice President Dick Cheney said the White House was forced to step in to save the companies after Congress failed to bail them out.
But the automakers must prove their viability by 31 March.
When their uncertain future becomes a little too much for the Moraine workers, they slip into the newly established “quiet room,” a refuge from the clatter and whine of the assembly line, fork trucks and dolly trains that will soon go silent. In the quiet room, workers can be alone with their thoughts or trade concerns with a fellow worker.
And a “spiritual reflection” room enables workers to take their lunch hour to pray or meet with ministers, who troop into the plant to offer spiritual balm. Both rooms were set up by workers and management to ease the transition.
For some workers, the plant is more than just a workplace.
GM employed 19,000 workers in the Dayton area in 1999, before spinning off its Delphi supplier division. Tuesday’s closing of the SUV plant will leave 572 workers at a GM engine plant the automaker owns jointly with Isuzu.