The changeover from the C7 to the C8 Corvette will mean five weeks of downtime for the more than 300 workers who had just gotten a new lease on life after transferring to the GM assembly plant in Bowling Green from the company’s Lordstown, Ohio facility that is shutting down after 53 years.
Of course, it’s not unexpected. GM spokesman Jim Cain says the production line at the Bowling Green plant will have to be closed down Nov. 18 to Dec. 6 as crews switch over equipment to allow the assembly of the much-anticipated mid-engine 2020 Stingray.
That means the Lordstown transfers along with hundreds of other veteran workers at the Bowling Green plant will be temporarily unemployed.
“The majority of (transferred workers from Lordstown) will be filing for unemployment in Ohio because they haven’t worked in Kentucky long enough,” explains Tim O’Hara, president of the UAW Local 112. “Some had made the trek down and the company said, ‘We’re not going to put you to work.’ They’ve joined the local (shop) down there but haven’t worked in the plant yet.”
Meanwhile, the closing of the Lordstown plant left about 500 other people out of work there, though CEO Steve Burns of electric vehicle maker Lordstown Motors Corp. – which is taking over the old GM plant there – says it will be hiring UAW members who didn’t transfer to Bowling Green.
Even if they don’t get jobs with Lordstown, the laid-off GM workers there are not being left out in the cold, thanks to the new four-year union deal reached last month. Those production workers with at least 30 years experience can receive $75,000, while skilled trades workers can get $85,000. Workers ineligible for retirement can take buyouts as high as $75,000, based on seniority. Some are also eligible for up to $8,400 in tuition assistance to retrain for another job.
Bill Adams, outgoing vice president of the Local 1112, says a meeting last week cleared up some of the confusion for the Lordstown workers, but he believes they are “still anxious” about the situation.
“They’re frustrated because they’ve got answers, but there’s still gray areas for them,” Adams said. “There’s offers for them to go ahead and apply for another plant… They’re basically get a second chance. If it works out for them, hopefully they’ll be able to continue on with General Motors at a different plant, but you don’t know the timeline…It could be up to four years before they get to move.”
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown is hopeful that Lordstown Motors Corp. will succeed at the facility. “The best way for the company to do that is to follow through on their commitment to work closely with the UAW and its workers, who are among the best in the world at what they do,” he said.
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