Janesville68.5°

GM forcing workers to move to Ohio

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
May 9, 2010
— Laid-off General Motors workers are being told they must report to work in Ohio this month or lose their benefits.

An unknown number of workers received notices last week. Some are happy to move and go back to work, while others face difficult choices, including whether to leave their spouses and children behind, said John Dohner Sr., president of UAW Local 95, which represents local workers.


Jason Muenchow of Janesville faces leaving his family and his hometown to work in Lordstown, Ohio.


Muenchow’s girlfriend is finishing up her first year of nursing school, and his two girls are in elementary school. Most of his family has lived here for decades, and he has good neighbors who help each other.


“I really have no desire to go anywhere,” Muenchow said.


He may find he has little choice.


Muenchow received his letter via FedEx on Friday. The letter says he must accept the offer by Tuesday or lose all his benefits.


Other workers got the same letter, telling them they must begin work in Lordstown on May 24, Dohner said.


If they don’t take the job offer, the only right they would retain, according to the letters, is the right to work in Janesville if the Janesville plant ever reopened.


Affected are workers who started at the Janesville plant Sept. 17, 1986, or later, Dohner was told, but he has also heard from workers who should have received the notices but did not.


“I just like it here, you know? But now I got this letter—it’s like, ‘go here or you got nothing,’” said Muenchow, who started at GM in 1995.


“I feel like my hand’s being forced now,” Muenchow continued. “I don’t want to sound like a whiner. A lot of people lost their jobs and didn’t receive as much money as I have from their employer.”


One option Muenchow is considering is to leave his daughters and girlfriend in Janesville for a year and then move them to Ohio.


Mapquest estimates the drive from Janesville to Lordstown at eight hours, 17 minutes.


GM reported last November that about 500 workers remained laid off from the GM plant after many retired, were bought out or transferred to other plants. It’s not clear how many of those are involved in this recall.


“We first started hearing about this Wednesday, and right now we don’t know how many people are involved,” Dohner said Saturday.


Dohner said he was told that skilled-trades workers would not be forced into transferring into production jobs.


GM issued a statement when called for comment Saturday: “Under the provisions of our labor contract, we can recall employees to work at other locations. We are in the process of adding a third shift of production at our Lordstown, Ohio, plant as we prepare for the launch of the Chevy Cruze. Many former Janesville employees have been recalled to work at other GM plants such as Arlington (Texas), Fairfax (Kan.) and Ft. Wayne (Ind.).”


But this is different from the situation of Janesville GM workers who chose to transfer to other GM plants. Workers who signed up for transfers could decline up to three job offers and still be eligible for work and benefits, Dohner said.


The latest notices went to people who didn’t sign up for transfers, and they have no right of refusal, Dohner said: Either report for work or give up benefits, including Supplemental Unemployment Benefits, or SUB pay. Pension benefits would cease to accrue.


Dohner said having a job is good news for some. He noted that workers at former GM supplier companies such as Lear and LSI don’t have the option to get the Lordstown jobs.


Dohner said he hears that similar letters have gone out to laid-off GM workers elsewhere in the country.


The Lordstown Vindicator reported April 27 that GM had hired 600 temporary workers for summer jobs to help get the Cruze assembly line going and that 1,200 full-time workers would be hired for a new third shift.


Some of the full-timers were called back, and others would come from other GM plants around the country, the Vindicator said, quoting a GM official.



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