LORDSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – General Motors Lordstown Complex announced that it will suspend the third shift of production in an effort to “strengthen and align its production output at key U.S. manufacturing operations.”
The suspension goes into effect January 23, 2017 and will affect 1,202 hourly employees and 43 salaried employees.
“We had some of our members, when they heard the news, they started to tear up and cry,” said Robert Morales, UAW Local 1714 president. “You know, it’s the holidays coming up and it’s people’s livelihood. They have families, they have kids.”
UAW Local 1112 President Glenn Johnson says the last time there were layoffs like this at Lordstown was in 1980.
“It’s hard for our members today. There’s people that have never known any other way of life except to go to General Motors and work every day.”
The plans include investing more than $900 million in three facilities — Toledo Transmission Operations in Ohio, Lansing Grand River in Michigan and Bedford Casting Operations in Indiana — to prepare the facilities for future product programs, according to GM Lordstown spokesman Tom Mock.
The suspension of the third shift also affects production at GM’s Lansing Grand River, Michigan assembly plant.
“I knew the announcement was coming. I wasn’t happy about it but you know, I guess that’s business,” said Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill.
The problem is more people are buying trucks and crossovers instead of small cars.
“Due to the fact that gas and oil is so cheap right now, people are buying these pickups, bigger cars, so the small car market is kind of taking a back seat for a while,” Hill said.
Cruze sales peaked in May 2013 at 32,871. In October 2016, they were 17,126 – a drop of 48 percent.
In comparison, sales in October 2016 for the Chevy Silverado pickup were 49,768.
When GM introduced the remodeled Cruze last summer, some of the work was sent to Mexico. Johnson says these layoffs do not have to do with Mexico.
“Some of that product was already brought back and now with this announcement, the rest of that product is coming back to Lordstown, too.”
The layoffs will be by seniority. Temporary workers will go first, then traditional. Once they’re laid off, the traditional workers would be first in line to be called back, but the layoffs are indefinite.
“I think what really gets to them is the fact that there is no return to work date,” Morales said.
Both Johnson and Morales stress that the layoffs have nothing to do with the work being done at the Lordstown plant. They also say no one knows what the future holds.
“We’re going to continue to position ourselves to be ready for whatever changes do come in the market. Whether it’s in product and/or a shift back toward a small car, we’ll be ready when that time comes,” Johnson said.
The layoffs are a shakeup that will not only impact the employees and their families, but the local economy.
“It’ll dip into our coffers, but we’ve been very frugal with our money,” Hill said.
State Senator-elect Sean O’Brien says it’s concerning that over 1,200 people will lose their jobs for an unknown period of time.
He and his successor in the state house, Glenn Holmes, are both hopeful that the layoffs are temporary.
“I feel anxious to the families that are losing their jobs. Any time you’re thrown into that situation, there has to be a sense of sensitivity,” Holmes said.
O’Brien says the job loss will be significant.
“I mean, GM’s one of the major employers in our area…it’s very important that we get back on track and, hopefully, the Cruze realigned and we can get these sales back up where they need to be.”
Holmes and O’Brien have already been talking with both the local union leadership and the company to see what they can do.