Workers react to Chrysler's plan to rebuild

April 30, 2009 The mood at Chrysler's Belvidere assembly plant ranges from hopeful anticipation to concern. The company has already said that once it files bankruptcy on Friday, it plans on shutting down operations for 60 days. That leaves workers to wonder if this particular plant will be a part of that temporary shutdown and if they'll be able to keep their jobs.

As a company, Chrysler may be able to weather its latest financial storm. But some employees at the car maker's Belvidere assembly plant wonder if they can.

"It makes me feel good that I have a job," said Jacquelyn Smith, Chrysler worker.

As the nation's third largest automaker prepared to file for bankruptcy, the company announced it would temporarily shut down operations beginning Monday for what could be up to two months. Normal production will resume once the agreement with Italian car maker Fiat is finalized.

"It would be nice to have the time off. Nice time of the year to get stuff done around the house and everything. But still I would rather be working," said Kendall Kelly, Jr., Chrysler supplier.

"But what we have is Chrysler's last, best hope for remaining in more or less the same format it is in now. But it's not quick. It's not going to be easy," said Douglas Baird, University of Chicago Law School.

Now that the company is expected to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, retirees like 36-year Chrysler worker Jim Hendrickson will lose some of his benefits and pension.

"Well, we're losing our dental. We're losing our vision. And we're losing some money that they paid Medicare," said Hendrickson.

The government has already promised to back Chrysler's car warranties in order to calm customer concerns. But many dealers aren't sure they will be able to survive while the company gets on the road to recovery.

"Just a matter of survival. And survive, you're going to be a lot stronger and when the question comes in when the economy changes, of course, then you're right on the ground floor," said Stanley Balzekas, Jr., Chrysler dealer.

As another part of this deal, look for Chrysler's financial arm to merge with GMAC which was once the finance arm of General Motors.

Another domestic car company that is surviving on government money, General Motors may have to file bankruptcy when a federal restructuring deadline arrives June 30.

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