GM Lordstown Plant Slashes Workforce; Up To 1,500 Jobs Impacted

LORDSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) - General Motors' plant in Lordstown will go down to a single shift, upsetting many workers and impacting the local economy.

It was announced during a plant-wide employee meeting on Friday afternoon.

June 15 is the last day for two shifts, while the one-shift schedule will take effect on June 18. 

We've learned that the change calls for the possibility of laying off up to 1,500 workers. GM is offering a $60,000 payout to some employees, however, so if workers take the buyout, that number could be lower.

Between 1,000 and 1,500 workers will be left on the single shift. At its peak in 1985, GM employed 15,000 people at the Lordstown plant when it was making small cars and vans.

That's a decrease of 90 percent in 33 years.

"You don't need an economist to tell you that it's bad news, as far as the economy of the Mahoning Valley," said YSU professor A.J. Summell.

An employee inside the plant said people were crying as the announcement was made.

"When they announced the first shift only, there were some outbursts, some screaming. It wasn't received well, but I think we all kind of knew it was coming," said Carrie Raupach, a worker.

Raupach has 40 years at Lordstown. She's taking the buyout and retiring, saying the buyout information will come next week.

There is a meeting on April 16 to roll out the details of a buyout. It's not yet known which workers will be offered a buyout, but they'll have 60 days to decide whether to take it.

GM is blaming declining Cruze sales.

"Well, they just said that cars aren't selling," Raupach said. "I really kind of think that maybe we may end up getting like, a small SUV."

The latest figures released by GM earlier this month show Cruze sales were down 13 percent compared to the year before.

"They're not selling any cars. Everybody's buying trucks. It's the way the economy's going with it, gas is cheap," said another worker, Michael McNamara.

Economists say a lot of that has to do with gas prices. When they're high, the Cruze does really well but when they're low, the sales just aren't there.

However, a GM spokesman said Friday that the car market remains important to GM and Chevrolet, since it represents 36 percent of industry retail sales.

"We want to make sure that we're doing everything that we can to keep the Cruze there and when they're looking to replace the Cruze, that Lordstown is there," Sen. Sean O'Brien said.

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"News like this hits pretty hard," said Trumbull County Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa.

Lordstown has seen a lot of development in recent years. There's currently one power plant under construction, a second one proposed for the area nearby and TJX is eyeing land for a distribution center in the village.

But news of cutbacks at the county's biggest employer is certainly turning heads.

"To lose the second shift there and go down to one shift would, obviously, be a substantial loss," Cantalamessa said.

"This is devastating news to many families in the area and we're very concerned about it," O'Brien said.

Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill said when the third shift was cut, the village lost about $1 million over a year. He estimates the village could lose about $500,000 this time around.

"It's not the first time that this has happened, but the spin-off is what's horrible," Hill said.

This won't affect Lordstown alone, though.

"It's a whole Valley issue," Hill said. "After the loss of steel and everything else, I mean, this has been the one thing that has been a staple in our Valley, and that is GM Lordstown and we appreciate they're here."

It's not just the direct impact that's worrying leaders, but the ripple effect on the local economy.

"The suppliers that supply to GM Lordstown, but also all those employers that go out to eat or shop, and local stores," Summell said.

United Auto Workers Local 1112 President Glenn Johnson has no comment at this time.

Superintendent Terry Armstrong released the following statement on behalf of Lordstown Local Schools:

First and foremost, this is terrible news for Lordstown and the entire Mahoning Valley. Our focus will remain on our students and their families. The board will likely be extending the suspension of classroom fees and pay to participation fees to lessen this burden on our school families. The district will also make any necessary adjustments to our budget as we continue to plan our five-year forecast. Our thoughts are with the families of all the workers impacted by the loss of jobs."

Sen. Rob Portman released this statement in light of the news:

This is bad news for the Lordstown plant and the great workforce I’ve had the chance to meet during my visits there. I’ve seen firsthand the world-class cars these workers produce, and if there is not a strong market for the Chevy Cruze right now, I want to be sure General Motors looks to this plant for production of other vehicles. I called senior executives at General Motors today to express this, and I will continue to do what I can to help bring new work to the plant. We will also do everything we can to help workers who are laid off with the appropriate resources during this transition. GM has a great resource in this plant and these workers, and I hope the company will reinvest in the plant and in the workforce."

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown called on GM to use money received from recent tax cuts to keep the jobs. 

GM cannot pocket billions of dollars in tax cuts and turn around and fire Ohio workers whose livelihoods depend on these jobs. I expect GM to tell Ohioans immediately how they plan to use their tax windfall to keep Ohioans in their jobs.”

Congressman Tim Ryan also released a statement after the announcement on Friday: 

I am deeply disappointed by today’s GM Lordstown announcement. While low gas prices encourages the decline of compact car like the Chevy Cruze, President Trump’s intention to weaken fuel economy standards is putting his thumb on the scale in favor of the larger cars and SUV’s made elsewhere. He claimed he was against the government picking winners and losers, and yet he goes against the very region and state that helped put him in office. As these layoffs are implemented, I will do everything in our power to assist the affected employees and their families get through this difficult time.”

Source : http://www.wkbn.com/news/local-news/announcement-expected-after-plant-wide-meeting-at-gm-lordstown/1120314497

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