The announcement that sent shockwaves across the Mahoning Valley means approximately 1,500 employees at the facility that produces the Chevrolet Cruze — one of Chevrolet’s most popular vehicles — are done when the second production shift is eliminated June 18.
The affected employees will be offered buyout packages of up to $60,000, Lordstown union officials said.
It’s the second big blow that has happened at the complex in the past 18 months. In November 2016, the automaker announced the third production shift would be eliminated. The move that affected 1,200 employees happened in January 2017.
That move was attributed to a switch in consumer preferences from small cars to crossovers, SUVs and trucks.
Employees exiting the complex after a plantwide gathering described the meeting as raucous with shouting and outbursts.
Carrie Raupach, a plant employee, said she will take that buyout.
“I’ve been here for 40 years,” Raupach said. “I want the plant to be successful, but it’s time for me to go.”
Raupach added that many workers knew the announcement was coming.
“The cars aren’t selling,” she said.
In February, the 12,875 Cruzes delivered in the U.S. signaled a 16.2 percent decrease from the 15,367 delivered in the same month in 2017. The decline, among several in recent months, continued into March, which saw a 13.4 percent decrease from the 18,607 deliveries in March 2017.
Despite those numbers, the Cruze remained the third-highest selling vehicle in the Chevrolet brand, trailing only the Silverado, which was No. 1 both months, and the Equinox, which was No. 2 both months.
GM Lordstown spokesman Tom Mock said the company will file a Worker Adjustment Retraining Notification, or WARN Act, notice as required under federal law when an employer lays off 500 or more employees. The act mandates a company provide 60 days notice to affected employees.
A first shift employee who did not want to be identified said it was a somber day, but he remained optimistic.
“I think we’re OK. We could get another product down the line,” he said.
The decision was made based on market forces, according to a statement from the company.
“The U.S. small car market has been on a steady decline since 2014 due in large part to a shift in consumer demand for crossovers, trucks, and SUVs,” the company released in the statement. “Lower fuel prices and an improving economy are both contributing to this trend.”
Mock said the plant wasn’t going to give up. “We’re still building a great car here,” he said.
The announcement came just days after Dave Green defeated incumbent Glenn Johnson to become president of the United Auto Workers Local 1112. Green was previously president of UAW 1714. The two locals merged last year in their effort to cut costs for GM and better secure the jobs of the 3,000 workers they represent.