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Many GM workers yearn to go home



Published: Sun, October 7, 2012 @ 12:01 a.m.

By BURTON SPEAKMAN

bspeakman@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

The General Motors Co. plant in Lordstown has been awash in good news recently with the company’s $200 million commitment to build the next-

generation Cruze there.

In addition, the Cruze was the

nation’s best-selling small car in August and September.

Officials also have announced GM workers who were transferred to Lordstown may get an opportunity to return to a plant closer to their home.

At the same time, a group of families working for GM in Kansas City, Kan., wants nothing more than to return to their home in Ohio.

Their stories are similar: They already had worked for GM for decades and did not want to risk losing their jobs by being unwilling to transfer during the company’s 2008 reorganization. They left behind families — and homes they often couldn’t sell — to move across the country to keep their GM jobs.

The moves came with some perks — bonuses of $25,000 or $30,000 to relocate — but to them, the bonuses didn’t offset the cost of what they left behind.

Jeff Schwab was a 15-year veteran with Delphi when he learned he could lose his job in January 2008. He and his wife, Kim, had purchased a home in Niles four months earlier.

Schwab said he was given the choice of more than 40 GM plants to which he could accept a transfer. To make sure he would keep working for GM, he provided 25

potential plant options.

Companywide GM

relocated 6,500 employees from their home plants, according to a letter sent in late June when union members were being asked about their interest in transferring by Joe Ashton, UAW vice president, and Cathy Clegg, vice president of GM labor relations.

Schwab was sent first to St. Louis, where he worked a few months before being laid off. He was then transferred to Kansas City, Kan., where he has been for more than two years.

“A lot of my friends didn’t have to go through all of this because they only put down one plant they were willing to transfer to. They weren’t willing to move their families,” Schwab said.

Part of the transfer was signing a contract that stated he would not apply for a transfer to another plant for three years. Schwab’s contract will be up in a month.

“I’ve got friends who have finished their contracts and put in for transfers to Lordstown.

What they’re being told is they’ll have to wait for the plant to put in a request for workers,” he said. “We’ve been told it shouldn’t be a problem because nobody wants to transfer to

Lordstown.”

Transferred employees should have received the

option to return to their home plant instead of

Lordstown hiring 129 temporary workers as full-time employees in May 2012, Schwab said. GM can find new workers for any of its plants, he maintained.

“We’re grateful to still

have a job with GM,” Kim Schwab said. “We just want to come home. Our whole family is there, our life is there.”

Shirla Pullin is another former Delphi worker who has been transferred twice starting near St. Louis before heading to Fort Wayne, Ind. Pullin still owns a home in Champion, in which her daughter and granddaughter live.

A number of Delphi workers were able to transfer to the Lordstown GM plant by waiting a little longer. But Pullin said she didn’t wait because she already had 20 years toward her retirement and was afraid Delphi would close completely and she would lose her job permanently.

“They got us to agree to transfers without giving us the big picture. They get you to make a decision with only part of the information,” she said.

There potentially is another problem with the one-time transfer. When Delphi employees were sent to GM plants around the country, their new plant was classified as their home plant, Pullin said.

Thus far she has not been able to find out if she would be able to go to Lordstown before she completes her three-year contract even if there were an opening, she said. It would be March 2013 before her contract expires.

She has watched some people transfer in and out of the Fort Wayne plant as part of the option to return home, Pullin said.

“It’s like a big puzzle they’re trying to put together,” she said.

Much of the problem stems from when GM tried to spin off Delphi, said Tom Kirin, a former Delphi Packard worker in Warren with a home in Champion. He now works in Kansas City after first being sent to St. Louis.

“When I was hired it was a General Motors plant,” he said.

But now workers from Delphi, although they maintained their time in for pensions and other matters, have lost seniority in areas such as job and shift selection that could also hurt them in transferring, Kirin said. There also was the

issue of the contract calling for transfer payments for workers.

“I don’t care about the payment. It’s more important to just get home with my kids and grandkids,” he said.

Ted and Vickie Thompson both signed three-year agreements to move to Kansas City after the plant in Mansfield where they worked was shut down.

Since their three-year contract expired, the only contact the Thompsons have had with GM is a letter stating there are no available spots in Lordstown or Parma for them to transfer.

“We’re trying to get back to Lordstown because it’s the closest place to home. We just want to get back home and close to our family,” Ted Thompson said. “I’ve got two grandkids who miss me and two who are about 2 years old who don’t even know who I am.”

His mother also had recent surgery and Thompson and his wife could not get back, he said.

Lordstown is still an hour and 45 minutes to two hours from home, but at least then it would be possible to return for weekends or an emergency, Thompson said. The 121⁄2- hour trip now makes that impossible.

Before the Lordstown plant hired temp workers in May, the company should have considered whether workers who had been transferred wanted to come back, he said.

“I’m proud to work at GM. My wife and I each drive GM vehicles,” Thompson said. “GM makes a high-quality product, but it would make an even higher-quality product if all its employees were happy and there weren’t some disgruntled [people]. I know there a number of disgruntled workers down here.”

After 12 years with the company and never

having a problem, Thompson said he believes GM owes it to him and others

who left their home to get a chance to return.

Thompson said the union and company officials in Kansas City aren’t providing much information about transfer possibilities.

Attempts to contact GM in Detroit for additional comment were unsuccessful.

“It’s all kind of like hush, hush. Nobody really wants to talk about it,” he said. “I’m not going to get settled, and I’m not going to be happy until I get to come back home. Kansas City is nice; there’s a lot to do here, but it’s not for me.”

Thompson said he and his wife pay $900 a month in rent, plus another $1,100 a month for the mortgage for their Mansfield home.

“Mansfield was devastated when GM shut down the plant. There are vacant homes everywhere. My house is probably worth 70 percent of what it used to be,” he said.

Glenn Johnson, president of United Auto Workers Local 1112, said in addition to workers in Kansas City, he has been contacted about a few in Shreveport, La, and in the Carolinas who want to come back to Lordstown.

“The issue is we have to follow the national contract,”

he said.

It is unlikely there would be any openings at the Lordstown plant until some of the workers here are able to transfer, Johnson said. The timing for that occurring has not been determined.

Both Johnson and Dave Green, president of UAW Local 1714, agreed they would like for all GM workers to be able to return to plants closer to their families if they choose.

“It’s a good thing that people want to come back to the Mahoning Valley,” Green said. “For years we didn’t hear anything except that people wanted to get out of here.”


Comments

1IslandMike(757 comments)posted 2 years ago

GM is ALIVE!!Bin Laden is DEAD!!
The US is OUT of IRAQ!!
Unemployment is DOWN!!
The stock market is UP!!
The CRUZE is #1!!

THANK YOU PRESIDENT OBAMA!!

Suggest removal:

2TylerDurden(367 comments)posted 2 years ago

I applaud your attempts to fit in with society. It cannot be easy, and after some simple research I realize this. I hope things get better for you in the furture.

People, he (or she) suffers from OCD. Please read:
"Compulsions as defined by:
•Repetitive behaviors or mental acts that the person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession, or according to rules that must be applied rigidly.
•The behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing distress or preventing some dreaded event or situation; however, these behaviors or mental acts either are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize or prevent or are clearly excessive.

The obsessions or compulsions cause marked distress, are time consuming (take more than 1 hour a day), or significantly interfere with the person's normal routine, occupational (or academic) functioning, or usual social activities or relationships."

Clearly the remedial nature of his (or her) early childhood was a disease. By continuing to write the same things over and over, he (or she) is able to cope.

Yes, Mike, Bin laden is dead. We are all out of Iraq, except for those still dying there, and GM is alive and well (the stock price is only down 50% since the IPO) and unemployment is down (mainly becasue people have stopped looking all together).

You are right Mike. Keep making yourself and your therapists proud. Use this public forum as a stage to show how far you have come.

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3youngstown615(98 comments)posted 2 years ago

My heart breaks for some of these people for what they had to go through.I worked for GM for 30 years on both sides of the fence ( Union & Management ) & one thing I have learned with GM........It's all about the $$$. At one "Plant Mgt. " meeting we were told " We're not here to build cars, or vans, we're here to build MONEY, and if we could do it with out a work force.... we would" This has nothing to do with Goverment , it's business. Moving employee back & forth is costly, & they really don't care about their people, as they might let on. When GM North America was asking for "Bail-out" money, "GM of China" was building 17 new plants in Russia & China. Loyal to GM ??? I drive FORDS, & always will. Let the Russians buy the GM cars.

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4madison2011(92 comments)posted 2 years ago

A lot of people yearning for jobs.

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5greene(167 comments)posted 2 years ago

TylerDurden, as I mentioned, islandMike's mother failed to match his Garanimals PJs top and bottom. He is a little upset.

Suggest removal:

6southsidedave(4784 comments)posted 2 years ago

It is good to have a decent job at all in this global economy.

Suggest removal:

7georgejeanie(844 comments)posted 2 years ago

Poor little babies, had to mo ve away from mommy and daddy. Grow up and get along with your lives. Moving back to the cesspool called "The Valley" is a bad move for your children and grand children. Encourage your kids to get out of Youngstown and relocate to where you are. Instead of you moving back and thinking things are going to get better. A generation has been waiting for it to get better, and it has not happened.

Suggest removal:

8WilliamP(69 comments)posted 2 years ago

Tyler -

Docta say I need a backiotomy.

Suggest removal:

9IslandMike(757 comments)posted 2 years ago

Sorry to make some people cry when I smack them with the FACTS!!

GM is ALIVE!!Bin Laden is DEAD!!
The US is OUT of IRAQ!!
Unemployment is DOWN!!
The stock market is UP!!
The CRUZE is #1!!

THANK YOU PRESIDENT OBAMA!!

Suggest removal:

10TylerDurden(367 comments)posted 2 years ago

One last time, with facts.

- I do need a backiotomy
- I do appreciate the garanimals situation, it explains a lot

- We are NOT out of Iraq, anti-war website just for you:

http://news.antiwar.com/2012/10/01/us...

- Whether GM is alive is purely subjective. One might say GM is dying again since the stock price is down a ridiculous amount since the IPO

- Whether the stock market is up is also subjective. I am quite sure you haven't analyzed the thousands of NYSE and NASDAQ stock prices. You only know about the Dow Industrials which is merely 30 stocks.

- The Cruze was #1 in small car sales in America in September 2012.Correct.

- Unemployment, based on the subjective formula, is down, so I will say correct again.

- Bin Laden is dead, but a body would have been nice. Anyway, correct.

Looks like you are 3 for 6 which is pretty on par for you I'm guessing. 50% seems likes it fits you, mainly in standardized testing.

I do cry when I think about you and the possibility of reproduction.

Get away from Odie, you're scarin' me!

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11Briscoe(14 comments)posted 2 years ago

Youngstown615:

You stated that "one thing you learned about GM is that it's all about the $$$" As a stockholder (yes, those of us that work and pay taxes are now stockholders since our gov't still owns a good portion of GM), I sure the heck hope that operating a business is "all about the $$$." Welcome to capitalism! Businesses exist to make a profit. In a true free enterprise situation, companies pay their employees the necessary wages and perks to retain and motivate. If they don't pay enough or treat them unfairly (as this article insinuates) then workers will leave and their skills will be employed elsewhere.

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12patrickhm(17 comments)posted 2 years ago

@ georgejeanie: You say that the Valley is a cesspool and has no real chance of a come back. Could it be that you're blaming your own shortcomings on the area as a whole? I plan on moving back to the Youngstown area in a few months from Hawaii where I've lived for the past 17 years. New life is being breathed back into the Mahoning Valley. Take a trip to downtown and see the businesses and eateries that have opened up there. To take advantage of the local boom, however necessitates an education and skills well beyond high school. If you come up short in that department, then you have only yourself to point fingers at. Aloha!

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13True_Blue(1 comment)posted 2 years ago

This story does not inform you that those who took the 30 grand knew they were waiving their return rights. They went for the $$$$. Other workers did not... and payed the price that goes with that decision... with no work or $$$. If you allow the 30 g's to supercede then pay "all" the other workers who suffered through the collapse 30 g's too. Otherwise you must live with your decisions just as thousands are doing now and have before in the past.

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14WilliamSwinger(341 comments)posted 2 years ago

"...Battleground Poll has Mitt Romney massacring Obama among indies by a whopping 16 points, 51-35..."

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Governme...

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15WilliamSwinger(341 comments)posted 2 years ago

-Al Qaeda is ALIVE
-US Ambassador is DEAD
-47 million on FOOD STAMPS
-16.2 trillion dollars in DEBT
-Gasoline prices up 400%
-Grocery prices up 15%
-Income down 8.2%
-MILLIONS left the labor force
-43 months of 8%+ unemployment
-Are YOU better off now than four years ago?

ROMNEY to the RESCUE!

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16casper77(136 comments)posted 2 years ago

Another recall for Toyota. 7.5 million. That makes 23 million since 2009. And people still trust in them

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