Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Bush Whitehouse: Dumb & Dummer

Mix of Shock and Resignation on G.M... Shop Floors Set to Close

Like many of the G.M. plants that are closing, the assembly plant in Doraville, Ga., dates to an era when G.M. dominated the car market.

Source: NY Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/22/business/22workers.html?th&emc=th

By JEREMY W. PETERS
Published: November 22, 2005


LANSING, Mich., Nov. 21 - When Dan Fairbanks received word from General Motors early Monday morning that his plant had been tagged for closing next year, there were few people in the factory to tell.

About two-thirds of the 300 hourly employees at the Lansing Craft Center, where Mr. Fairbanks is the president of a local chapter of the United Automobile Workers, are temporarily laid off. In fact, they have not worked for most of the year. The Lansing Craft Center is still scheduled to ratchet up production early next month but will close for good sometime next year.


Closing Plants and Losing Employees


What's Next for G.M. and Ford?


Kerkorian's Offer


G.M. Management Shake-Up


G.M. Is Treading Water


Related

News Release (gm.com)

For a G.M. Family, the American Dream Vanishes (November 19, 2005)

Union Vote Accepts Cuts in Benefits at G.M. (November 12, 2005)
S. & P. Cuts Debt Ratings for G.M. and Ford to Junk Status (May 5, 2005)




Jessica McGowan for The New York Times

Tammy Andrews, a line worker in Doraville, Ga., learned on awakening of her plant's closing. "I'm going to cry when I go home tonight," she said.

"There are going to be some casualties, and we are one of them," Mr. Fairbanks said. In many ways, the plant is symbolic of the problems facing General Motors. The automaker slowed production there to a trickle as demand for the vehicle it produces, the $40,000 high-performance Chevrolet SSR pickup truck, failed to keep pace with capacity. Although most employees do not come to work, under their union contract G.M. is still required to pay them.

A cold drizzle fell in a mainly empty parking lot at the center as this city took in the news that G.M. would close all or part of 12 operations in North America. Here in Lansing, where two of those plants are situated, the automaker's cuts will be deep.

Still, G.M. employs thousands of people in the area at four plants and is currently building a new factory, with modern equipment. The plants that will remain open will provide some cushion for workers who do not take buyouts.

On Monday, G.M. workers across the country met the news of the plant closings and the job cuts with a mixture of shock, resignation and frustration at the company's management.

"There's a lot of people who rely on G.M., especially in this town," said Michael McCoy, 52, a production worker at the Lansing Metal Center with 30 years at the company. The metal center, a sprawling industrial complex across the street from the craft center that makes sheet metal parts for various vehicles, is also scheduled to close.

About the time the G.M. corporate headquarters in Detroit informed union officials at the craft center of the closing next year, Mr. McCoy and his co-workers on the morning shift at the metal center were summoned to the shop floor by their union chairman and told the news.

Art Baker, the chairman of the local auto workers union that represents the 950 hourly workers at the metal center, said he learned of G.M.'s decision just 15 minutes before he told employees. "It was not the expectation that General Motors was going to get lean and mean," Mr. Baker said. "It was a real shock."

The union called the job cuts and plant closings "extremely disappointing, unfair and unfortunate." The union's president, Ron Gettelfinger, and its vice president, Richard Shoemaker, said in a statement that for workers, "hope is diminished, the future is unclear and communities are less stable."

In Oklahoma, Georgia and other states where G.M. is closing its only plants, G.M. workers will have fewer options than their counterparts in Lansing for jobs that offer such high pay and generous benefits.

"I was awakened out of my sleep and told the plant was closing," said Tammy Andrews, 35, a line worker at the General Motors assembly plant in Doraville, Ga., just outside Atlanta. "I'm going to cry when I go home tonight."

Many of the plants that will close, like Doraville Assembly and the Lansing Metal Center, are more than 50 years old and date back to an era when G.M. held a commanding share of the American car market. As Asian competitors with lower labor costs and vehicles that many Americans consider more desirable have cut G.M.'s market share down to about a quarter of all American vehicles, the automaker has grappled to regain its competitiveness. Closing under-used plants and trimming its work force is one way it hopes to do that.

For cities like Lansing and Flint, Mich., that have for decades looked to the American auto industry to provide much of their livelihood, G.M.'s downsizing means the end of an era in which generations of families could depend on steady work at a car company and a generous retirement plan after 30 years of service.

"It used to be our kids would come in here and follow us, but that's not the trend anymore," Mr. McCoy said. "I just think it'd be nice if General Motors could get everything together, get it fixed and get going again."

Alvin Jones, 59, a line worker at the metal plant, has 40 years of experience but said he resented the idea of taking a retirement buyout. "Once you take the buyout, what's going to be left for you to do?" he asked. Mr. Jones moved to Lansing from the South in the mid-1960's to take a job with G.M. that he assumed would be his as long as he wanted to work.

Throughout his four decades at G.M., Mr. Jones said he had seen the domestic auto industry at some of its highest and lowest points. As he stood outside the Lansing metal plant on Monday and absorbed the news his plant would be closed, he said, "I've never seen it this bad, and I've been around for a lot of years."

Daniel Crane, 27, who installs glass on minivans at the Doraville plant, criticized G.M. for not making cars that sell well. "Who buys a minivan?" he asked. "G.M.'s not coming out with a product anybody wants."

As news of billion-dollar losses, job cuts and benefit reductions has rolled out of G.M. with alarming regularity this year, some workers said they saw the writing on the wall well before Monday. "Everybody in the G.M. system is trying to speculate on where they stand," said Mr. Fairbanks, the Lansing union president. "A total surprise? No. Not with the way things are going."

Brenda Goodman contributed reporting from Doraville, Ga., for this article.


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Folks, enough is enough... a strong message needs to be sent to the Congress to hold those accountable for this Icon-Economic failure to stand before the American People, under oath, and take a tongue lashing-- and that definitely includes the Whitehouse!... the dysfunctional Whitehouse indeed.

Maybe there is HOPE for Congress in 2006 with a Band of Gypsies that call themselves, "The 30 Somethings". Lord help us, there is only (13) of them thus far...

"Let it Grow, Let it Grow, Let it Blossom-- Let it Grow...", Eric Clapton.

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