Janesville49.2°

GM closing could indirectly affect poverty

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Stacy Vogel
August 26, 2008
— Many people worry that the General Motors plant’s closing by the end of 2010 will worsen poverty in Janesville.

The community has already started to feel the effects of job losses since the plant eliminated 1,300 positions through layoffs and buyouts this summer. Local suppliers, such as Lear and LSI, also have laid off hundreds.


But many of the workers—especially from GM—have safety nets. Contract benefits will make sure GM workers receive full pay or close to it for up to three years.


Marc Perry worries about the people who will now compete with unemployed plant workers for jobs.


“With GM moving out, it kind of moves everybody down a level,” said Perry, Community Action director of planning and development. “So it’s that group that’s making $12 to $16 an hour, that group that’s just above poverty … that’s now going to be competing against GM workers for jobs.”


Community Action and the Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board are working together to try to help workers affected by the changes, said Bob Borremans, executive director of the board.


The workforce development board oversees the Rock County Job Center, which offers resources to job seekers and those in poverty.


The groups want to find a way to encourage employers to hire and train workers who might not have the skills—or the resumes—to compete in the new workforce, he said.


“How can we provide the support systems that will relieve the employer of the bureaucracy and the accountability?” he asked.


Meanwhile, local nonprofits will probably deal with fewer resources themselves, Perry said. General Motors was known for its community contributions, such as food drives and fund-raising campaigns.


“GM has been a huge supporter of nonprofits for years, so I think there’s that concern, as well,” he said.


Still, Borremans sees community groups banding together in this time of need.


“There’s more willingness to partner, and there are agencies that are bringing resources to the table and looking at ways we can collaboratively bring services,” he said. “You can’t do it alone anymore.”



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