Displaced workers anxious to start
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
The displaced General Motors workers volunteered to come to GM Lordstown and work, and they are raring to get at it.
“I’m looking forward to getting on the job and getting my hands dirty,” said Keith Fingerhut, 47, who has worked 25 years for GM at three plants that closed in Tarrytown, N.Y.; Linden, N.J.; and most recently, in Wilmington, Del.
Fingerhut was among about 85 GM hourly employees who received a day of benefits orientation Monday at United Auto Workers of America Local 1112 and were scheduled today to tour the assembly plant where they will work.
Another group of volunteers will go through the same orientation Wednesday, and next week about 169 laid-off GM employees from Janesville, Wis., who were forced to come to Lordstown GM or lose their GM benefits, will go through the same process.
The assembly plant expects to have about 340 transfer workers, said Jim Graham, president of Local 1112.
The fabrication plant, represented by UAW Local 1714, expects to absorb about 114 transfer workers, said Dave Green, president of Local 1714 president.
“We sympathize with them. It’s tough when you have to leave your family behind. But at least they have a job, and a $28-an-hour job is a lot better than the unemployment line,” Graham said.
The transfers from the Delaware plant, with the four-day work weeks that are standard at GM Lordstown, can drive home more easily on their three-day weekends to visit family and friends than can transfers from Wisconsin.
That’s what Fingerhut, who has an apartment in Vienna, and Greg Cowchok, 45, of Newark, Del., have decided to do.
For Cowchok, coming to Lordstown was an easy choice. He has been laid off since December 2008, and his GM benefits would have expired in June.
“I love building cars. It makes you feel good building something for America and for Americans to go to work in,” he said.
Thomas Nawrocki, 38, of Bel Air, Md., however, has decided to make the Mahoning Valley home.
“It’s hard leaving family and friends, but Bel Air is only about five hours away. And, the cost of living is a lot better here,” he said.
“So far, so good,” said Angela Seay, 46, originally from Baltimore, who moved here May 7. Seay, who has been with GM since 1994, said this is her first time to have to move to stay with GM. She had been laid off from the Wilmington plant for 16 months.
The transfer employes, who will help make up the 1,200-member third shift needed to build the new Chevrolet Cruze, will go through an intense training period between now and the July launch of the new car, Graham said.
GM Lordstown is scheduled to start making the Cruze in July, ramp up production in August and have the new product to dealerships by mid-October, Graham said.
“The Cruze is ‘ground zero’ for GM’s future, and we’re more than ready. I’m confident the transfer employees will do well because they want to be here,” Graham said.
“I’m from a GM family,” Fingerhut said. “Give me a chance to get my 30 years-plus.”
“I’m totally excited about being here in Lordstown ... and the Cruze sounds like a winner. Give me a job, and I’ll learn it fast and then do it,” he said.