GM to close Wisconsin plant

June 3, 2008 3:55:38 PM PDT
The high cost of gasoline is forcing General Motors to close four plants, including one in Janesville, Wisconsin. About 10,000 workers at GM plants in the US, Canada and Mexico are affected. When these closings take effect in 2010, General Motors will have only one plant devoted to the manufacture of SUVs. That's in Texas. So it's clear that the cost of gas has GM reducing its production of gas guzzlers. That is regrettable news for Janesville.

"We're all numb. It's a huge announcement. It's devastating to our employees. It's devastating to our family, friends, neighbors," said Brad Dutcher, UAW Local 95.

Janesville is the oldest of GM's assembly plants. But its age is not so much an issue as what GM makes there-- Chevy Suburbans and Tahoes, the GMC Yukon and Denali, big gas drinkers. Their sales are way down because gas prices are way up.

"We at GM don't think this is a spike or a temporary shift. We believe it is by and large permanent," said Rick Wagoner, GM chairman.

And so GM announced Tuesday morning that it's closing the Janesville plant in 2010, or perhaps earlier depending on the market, and it's also closing three other plants, one in Ohio, one in Ontario and one in Mexico.

Wisconsin's governor calls GM's announcement a bitter pill.

"GM is just saying, 'Sorry, Janesville, it's been nearly 100 years and you have done a great job for us but see you all later.' If that's what they say to these guys, then we're going to have to -- we're not going to say it to them," said Jim Doyle, Wisconsin governor.

Wisconsin's Governor wondered aloud Tuesday if GM has just discovered that gas prices are high and probably won't be dropping much. The Janesville plant had undergone a multi-million dollar retooling which involved financial incentives from Wisconsin.

In February, presidential candidate Barack Obama toured the Janesville plant. He issued a statement Tuesday saying the closing is due in part to the failed economic and energy policies of George Bush.

Everyone involved in the Janesville plant say they'll now try to convince GM to rework the plant for production of more fuel-efficient cars, but that option does not appear likely.

"We really would not foresee the likely prospect of new products in the plants that we're announcing today that we will cease production in," said Wagoner.

The GM plant used to be Janesville's largest employer. It's not anymore, but with 2,600 workers, it is still a huge component of the local economy.

What is most frustrating to workers, as Governor Doyle said Tuesday, is that you go to work, do a good job, get recognized for it over and over, and then the plant closes.


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