After layoff news, GM workers worry about their ‘next move’

After layoff news, GM workers worry about their ‘next move’


JUDY WOODRUFF: Workers at General Motors are
facing an uncertain future this holiday season. The company announced it’s stopping production
at five factories. The move would cost some 14,000 jobs in North
America. Yamiche Alcindor is back with reporting from
Detroit and Lordstown, Ohio, two communities that depend on General Motors. PEGGY JONES, General Motors Employee: We just
don’t know for sure what’s going to happen after June. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Peggy Jones has worked at
General Motors for more than 20 years. The good pay and benefits support her and
the five grandchildren she’s raising. PEGGY JONES: It’s kind of hard to think about
what’s going on and all. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: But, in late November, GM
announced plans to begin shuttering five plants in North America. They include Peggy’s plant in Hamtramck, Michigan,
which borders Detroit. A GM executive came to her plant to the announcement. PEGGY JONES: She told us, she said, the cars
aren’t selling, and we’re going to be an unallocated plant. So, unallocated is supposed to mean we don’t
have any product in our plant. So, it didn’t register at first. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Unless GM brings in a new
car, for Hamtramck’s 1,300 hourly employees, no product means no work. PEGGY JONES: No one came out and said, no,
it’s not closing. I’m sorry. I have been trying to stay strong for everybody
at the plant, because they depend on me, but I’m a human being too. D’NITRA LANDON, General Motors Employee: I
was angry, and then I was disappointed. And then I was, OK, what are you going to
do? What’s the next move? YAMICHE ALCINDOR: D’Nitra Landon works on
the Hamtramck assembly line. D’NITRA LANDON: It brought me back to when
I was homeless before. Yes, it brought some shadows and some memories
back. I’m in survival mode again. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: She and her family spent
a year squatting in this house, until she got a job at General Motors. That was almost four years ago. Her income helped her to buy the home next
door. D’NITRA LANDON: I have never made this much
money hourly before in my life, never had these great health benefits before in my life. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: She thinks GM should have
communicated better with its employees. D’NITRA LANDON: We didn’t know. We found out after the fact. And that’s not fair. We’re not robots that you can push a button
and say, OK, do this, now do that. You have to explain to us what’s going on
as much as you can. And that’s all that anyone can ever ask for,
is respect. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: GM is also idling a second
plant in Michigan, plus ones in Ohio, Maryland and Canada. The company is cutting production of sedans,
which haven’t been selling as well as crossovers and trucks. GM says it is slashing costs to invest in
future technology, like electric and self-driving cars. In a statement to “NewsHour,” General Motors
said — quote — “We are doing this while the company and economy are strong and to
address current market conditions.” Factory jobs aren’t the only ones on the chopping
block. The company plans to eliminate 15 percent
of its salaried work force. That’s about 8,000 white-collar jobs. Last week, General Motors CEO, Mary Barra,
traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers from states that will suffer because of the
company’s cuts. MARY BARRA, CEO, General Motors: It’s important
for General Motors to make necessary, but incredibly difficult changes to make sure
that we can be in a leadership position. PATRICK ANDERSON, Anderson Economic Group:
The American consumer and taxpayer is not bailing out General Motors again. Everybody knows that. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Patrick Anderson is the
president of an auto industry consulting firm in East Lansing, Michigan. PATRICK ANDERSON: Every auto executive in
Detroit remembers the ’90s, the 2000s, the ’80s, when car companies like General Motors
built products even if they couldn’t sell them, just to keep the plants running. That led, along with a bunch of other mistakes,
to General Motors’ bankruptcy. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: For decades, GM has been
the engine that’s powered Lordstown, Ohio, population 3,200. Last month’s news struck the town like a bombshell:
It will no longer be home to the Chevy Cruze in 2019. The GM plant used to work around the clock
manufacturing the Cruze. But signs of trouble began almost two years
ago, when the company started cutting hours and laying off workers. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Tommy Wolikow and his fiancee,
Rochelle Carlisle, met while working at the factory. They both lost their jobs on the same day
in that first round of layoffs. ROCHELLE CARLISLE, Former General Motors Employee:
When we walked out of there that night, it was like a surreal feeling. It was very, very quiet throughout the entire
plant. And now it’s two years later, and still no
one knows what’s going to happen. It’s like we have just been left to — left
out to dry. TOMMY WOLIKOW, Former General Motors Employee:
I feel like it’s kind of corporate greed, because GM’s profiting more than they ever
did in their history. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Rochelle has been supporting
them and their daughters by working as a waitress. But, Friday, Tommy finally got a new job as
a diesel technician. Here in 2016, President Trump turned Trumbull
County, which includes Lordstown, from blue to red. He vowed to keep and even increase jobs in
auto manufacturing towns like this one. But now some in Lordstown say those words
ring hollow. DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States:
Let me tell you folks in Ohio and in this area, don’t sell your house. Don’t sell your house. Do not sell it. We’re going to get those values up. We’re going to get those jobs coming back,
and we’re going to fill up those factories, or rip them down and build brand-new ones. TOMMY WOLIKOW: He said to the crowd, he said,
don’t sell your homes. Well, I bought a house two miles away from
where I worked. He said, jobs are going to be pouring back
in. I lost my job. It just kind of sounded like he was speaking
to me. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: At his new job, he’s making
$10 an hour less. He still hopes to work again at GM. The plant isn’t just the heartbeat of Lordstown. It supports the entire surrounding Mahoning
Valley. ARNO HILL, Mayor of Lordstown, Ohio: We’re
tough. We’re going to persevere. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Lordstown’s Mayor Arno Hill
says small businesses around the factory are suffering, too, like Ross’ Pub, the after-work
watering hole just down the street from the plant. ARNO HILL: We’re very small. And a lot of other businesses and other communities
are hurting just like us, if not worse. For every GM job, it’s said that seven jobs
outside can be directly affected. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: But he insists there’s still
hope that General Motors will remain in the area. ARNO HILL: They’re not permanently shuttering
it. So there’s still hope that we may get another
plant, and, hopefully, life goes on. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Meanwhile, in Detroit, employees
like Peggy Jones are facing tough choices. They can apply for transfers based on seniority
or wait for a new product that might never come. PEGGY JONES: I can’t sit there and wait until
the last minute and then don’t have any opportunities and just get laid off. I can’t do that. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: D’Nitra Landon says the
holidays won’t be the same, with the threat of unemployment looming. But she’s still trimming her tree, and hoping
for the best. D’NITRA LANDON: I would never be homeless
again, ever, not ever. And my children won’t ever. You’re taking a big chunk of what has kept
me alive and brought me back to where I am. And now you’re taking a big chunk of it away
from me again. So, now I got to scratch and I got to crawl
again. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: For the “PBS NewsHour,”
I’m Yamiche Alcindor in Detroit.

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