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Amid tears, there is hope for the future

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JAMES P. LEUTE
December 23, 2008
— However slim it might be, there's still hope that today wasn't the last day of significant production at the General Motors assembly plant in Janesville.

That was the message the leadership of United Auto Workers Local 95 left with employees this morning.


"The one thing I want everyone to know, and it doesn't matter if you're union or company, is that we didn't deserve this," said John Dohner Jr., Local 95's shop committee chairman. "We've all put a lot of hard work into trying to secure a future here. We've built great products.


"The one thing they cannot take a way from us is hope."


One reason for that hope is a local contract agreement that Local 95 members ratified last summer. Those who have seen it say it's concessionary but highly competitive.


Armed with a federal loan package and a March deadline to right its ship, GM is using the contract ratified in Janesville as a model for other plants and local unions, Dohner said.


"They're taking our local agreement, they're toting it in front of all the other local plants and saying, 'You got to do this if you want to be around,'" Dohner said. "But the good thing is that those other plants, those other locals are saying, 'You didn't do anything for Janesville, so why should we do anything for you.'"


Other than ending SUV production in Janesville, GM hasn't made any decisions about the future of the Janesville plant.


Dohner said that's where hope comes in—as in the hope that the Janesville plant and its new contract can be among the foundations as GM reinvents itself.


"We're not done yet," Local 95 president Andy Richardson said. "This ain't the last grille built in this plant."



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