GM Workers Taking in Bankruptcy Effects

For General Motors workers and others across the nation, reaction to the automaker's historic bankruptcy filing Monday and the effect on their plants and lives ranged from resignation to fear.


Markis Coleman, 30, a GM employee at a plant in Orion Township, Mich., north of Detroit, said shortly before the bankruptcy was announced that there is little he can do even as much needs to be done.

"I'm going with the flow," the 10-year company veteran said Monday morning. "It's all in their hands. I'm going to let them do it. But they need to change things, though. They have to change."

The once-mighty corporate giant whose brands were household names and plants the lifeblood of many U.S. communities filed its Chapter 11 petition in New York Monday. It marks the fourth-largest bankruptcy in U.S. history and the largest for an industrial company.

GM also revealed Monday that it will permanently close nine more plants and idle three others.

The closing of a metal stamping plant near Mansfield, Ohio, will force the city to cut jobs because it will lose one of its biggest employers and water customers. The plant's roughly 1,200 workers make parts for many of GM's slow-selling trucks and sport utility vehicles.

"This is so devastating," said Mansfield Mayor Donald Culliver. "We're all going through budgetary problems and this just adds fuel to the fire."

Small businesses that supply the plant also will suffer, he said. "That's what is going to hurt us even more than losing GM," Culliver said.

Rickey Holmes, 28, a Xerox contract worker for GM at its Renaissance Center headquarters in Detroit, agreed that the turbulence spreads well beyond those who collect a check directly from the automaker.

"Everybody's job is worth worrying about," Holmes said. "I can't sit here and be upset when you have no control over it. It's a situation where you hope everything works out for everyone, especially GM. I'm especially praying that GM stays here in Detroit."

Xerox hasn't told its workers at GM what the future holds for them, he said.

Sam Bazzi, 64, owns Sam's Tailor Shop in the Renaissance Center and most of his business comes from GM employees and others who work with the automaker. If GM were to leave, he would be forced to close as well. "Because no business, nobody, no traffic. If GM moves out, I don't have a choice."

Brenda Peay, 28, of Detroit, is employed by Tax Lease Consultants, where she mails out tax notices on property owned by GM.

"My job may not be crucial to the production of a car," she said, yet her future could still depend on how GM emerges from bankruptcy.

Delores Jackson, 47, who works at GM's Orion Township plant and has logged 24 years with the automaker, is keeping calm and relying on her faith to get through.

"You know what? Everything is on the bubble," she said. "So I just take it one day at a time and I trust the Lord. He put me here, he knew everything that was going to happen when he sent me here so that's where my trust is at."

James Kendall, president of the United Auto Workers local that represents a metal-stamping plant in Indianapolis that had been set to close in December 2011, said GM told union officials Monday the plant could close sooner.

Kendall said the local's members have agreed to significant contract concessions in a bid to keep the plant, which employs about 800 people.

"We still want the company to be successful. The UAW has never been the company's problem -- they've made a lot of money over the years with UAW-represented employees. It was neither one of our faults that the economy failed the way it did. I think in a few years after the loans are paid off the company's going to excel."

"The people here deserve this facility to stay open, but unfortunately it's not up to us."