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Spring Hill UAW Chair says local GM plant is "blessed," but plant closures, layoffs elsewhere are "devastating"


Spring Hill UAW Chair says local GM plant is "blessed," but plant closures, layoffs elsewhere are "devastating"

BY ALEXANDER WILLIS

Mike Herron, chairman of the Spring Hill chapter of the United Automobile Workers (UAW)  said GM workers in Spring Hill, spared by Monday’s announcement by the company of layoffs and plant closures, are “very blessed” to have what they do, and that their mission will be to continue to stay on task and build “world-class quality products.”

But he said his heart goes out to workers in the affected communities.

General Motors announced on Monday its plans to to cut more than 14,000 white and blue collar jobs, reducing it’s amount of salaried employees by 15 percent. In addition, General Motors announced the closure of five separate plants across North America.

The announcement comes shortly after General Motors had offered a buyout to 18,000 of its salaried employees, which was described as a “cost efficiency” measure.

“The people in those communities are the ones that my heart goes out to in this process,” Herron said. “While many people are just looking at this as a news report, there’s people that are today questioning their future [and] how they’re going to make a living.”

Spring Hill assembles the GMC Acadia and the Cadillac XT5, as well as engines for lines of sedans, SUVs, crossovers and pickup trucks made locally and in other U.S. plants, plus vehicles assembled in Mexico and Korea. Plans to also produce another Cadillac crossover, likely to be called the Cadillac XT6, are still in the plant’s future, according to the web site GM Authority.

Despite just reporting a profitable third quarter, the company has seen a slump in vehicle sales, charging more on each individual sale to offset lower sales figures. General Motors also reported as part of the announcement the end of production for six types of vehicles, including the Chevrolet Volt and the Chevrolet Impala.

The international UAW slammed the announcement, with UAW Vice President Terry Dittes saying the plant closures are “profoundly damaging to our American workforce.”

“GM’s production decisions, in light of employee concessions during the economic downturn and a taxpayer bailout from bankruptcy, puts profits before the working families of this country whose personal sacrifices stood with GM during those dark days,” Dittes said in a statement. “These decisions are a slap in the face to the memory and recall of that historical American-made bailout.”

Herron said he believes one major reason for the plant closures and layoffs amidst profitable quarters for GM is the potential of an economic recession sometime in the future.

“From a business perspective, I think what GM’s doing is they are clearly battening down the hatches for what could be a recession some point in the future,” Herron said. “We’ve got an economy here that is unique, and at some point, there’s going to be a downturn. I think General Motors is just making sure that they’re prepared in the event that does happen. Could be six months, could be a year, could be two years, could be five years – but at some point, it’s going to happen.”

Herron explained that GM has been criticized in the past for its actions during the recession of 2008, and that it’s recent announcement is an attempt to illustrate its foresight in the auto manufacturing industry by prematurely cutting costs.

“One of the major criticisms of GM was they’re slow to act,” Herron said. “The criticism has been they do great when the market’s booming, they do very poorly on the edge of the downturn. So I think this is a move that they show the world that it’s not old GM.”

Herron also continues to advocate for all products that are sold in North America to be made in North America.

He said the layoffs have far greater impacts than just the job losses alone.

“It’s not just the five plants in question that we’re talking about, it’s a proven fact that there’s nine jobs that are directly tied to every single job that’s in a GM manufacturing plant,” Herron said. “They have what I call an economic multiplier, and that multiplier from a community perspective is nine jobs, it creates restaurant jobs and all these service jobs.”

Beyond the service jobs affected by plant closures such those in the restaurant, retail and housing industries, Herron says there’s a litany of supplier jobs that are also severely impacted.

“All you have to do is look right behind the GM plant on Beechcroft road, and you can tell that that’s absolutely true,” Herron said. “You’ve got Magna, you have CLI (Comprehensive Logistics Inc.), you’ve got a brand new plant being built by Faurecia. In the plant, we’ve got Ryder, we’ve got Leadec, we’ve got American Food and Vending. When somebody says there are going to be 14,000 jobs that are lost, you can times that times nine. That’s the reality.”

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