The GM Diaspora

I have talked about the lack of movement by the American labor force a number of times. The nation has experienced any number of mass migrations by Americans from one area of the country with little economic opportunity to the areas that had growth and jobs.

But for some reason, that’s been lacking in 21st Century America. I brought up the lack of builders in Houston after the hurricane and how they couldn’t get workmen to move there. Or how out of work coal miners or coal mine support workers wouldn’t move to manufacturing areas in need of workers during the 2016 campaign. And of course there is reticence on the part of rural employers to seek out the urban unemployed but that’s another story in itself.

But now we have an article from the Associated Press about the issues being faced by those autoworkers who lost their jobs at the GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio.

Yes GM closed a large plant in the center of the nation’s car manufacturing heartland. A plant building the Chevrolet Cruze. A small car admittedly out of favor with the American public who all need huge SUV’s and Crew cab 4WD pick-up trucks.

The downside is the city of Lordstown is going to suffer from lack of jobs and tax revenue. The upside is GM offered all of their Lordstown employees jobs at other GM plants. And many of them took advantage of that offer.

But they are discontent with having to move. I understand the discomfort of having to sell your home and move further from family and loved ones. I understand that it disrupts community and schools and other affiliations. But this is the history of America. And unlike in past eras, getting back to visit if far easier and less expensive than it was.

Everyone of European descent in the United States is a product of someone who upended their life and left their families thousands of miles away…sometimes to never seen them again. They had good reasons to move…they encountered hardships to escape whatever to find a new life in America.

And then we had the huge migrations west. The depression era migrations westward. The huge migrations of both poor whites and poor blacks from the agricultural south to the industrial north throughout the 20th Century.

I am sorry that GM closed the plant. I am sorry for the anguish brought on to GM employees. But this is how the country has grown and developed and sometimes failed in its history.

Among the thousands of former Lordstown assembly plant workers now spread across GM factories in seven states, many were hoping that the automaker, facing pressure from President Donald Trump, would agree during contract talks to revive production that ended in March and rescue their old jobs.

But that hope is dwindling.

Instead, GM wants to sell the plant to a fledgling electric-vehicle maker and build an electric-vehicle battery factory that would probably be run by a GM joint venture.

The battery plant proposal and the fate of the Lordstown plant are playing out amid negotiations aimed at ending the strike by 49,000 members of the United Auto Workers that has paralyzed GM auto production nationwide for nearly two weeks.

How many UAW jobs the company would need for the battery plant hasn’t been disclosed, but it’s likely to be a few hundred at the start and won’t ever come close to the 4,500 who worked at Lordstown making the Chevrolet Cruze compact car just two years ago.

The wages would be much lower, too — as much as 50% below the $30-an-hour top pay now made by UAW production workers.

There is very little that President Trump can do to keep jobs like this. Unless he can provide a miraculous market demand for the Cruze.

Of the workers who once staffed the plant around the clock, about 3,400 took GM up on transferring to factories around the country, some as far away as Arlington, Texas, said Dave Green, former president of the UAW local in Lordstown.

The rest retired from GM or left the company and decided to stay in the area, largely for family reasons, he said.

“No matter what they do, it’s never going to be the same. There are people who moved and sold their houses. We’re forever changed in Lordstown,” said Tiffany Davis, a fifth-grade teacher whose husband, Tom, transferred to GM’s plant in Bowling Green, Ky., while she stayed behind.

“Unfortunately,” she said, “we have to chase after the money.”

I am sorry, but you are going to have to chase the money…just like all of our forebears have done for centuries. Here’s a chance to make the most of an ‘opportunity’.


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