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A GM worker reacts to the layoff and closure of a plant in Warren, Ohio



General Motors has caused an uproar this week by announcing its intention to close down to five factories in the United States and Canada and to cut more than 14,000 jobs over the next two years.

The automaker said consumers were not buying enough cars, like the Chevrolet Cruze, and this overhaul would save the company $ 6 billion. GM also accused President Donald Trump, whose import duties on imported steel cost the company $ 1 billion.

GM's decision has provoked negative reactions among Canadian and US lawmakers. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called him "Corporate greed at its worst," pointing out that GM had received millions of dollars in corporate tax cuts but had not used that money to invest in its workers. Instead, the company recently announced plans to build its new Chevy Blazer in Mexico – a decision that has frustrated US unions that want these jobs to be awarded to American workers.

Trump would also have been furious with this decision. GM manufactures electric cars and US buyers can get federal tax relief. So, Trump has threatened to cut these subsidies for GM vehicles (which he could not do without Congress).

As lawmakers and business leaders continued to point fingers and try to deflect blame, I reached out to Nanette Senters, a 55-year-old woman who had been working for two decades at GM's Lordstown in Warren, Ohio where La Cruze is made.

The callers sobbed on the phone and told me how bad news was for her and thousands of her colleagues who are going to lose their jobs. She is single but helps support her 84-year-old mother. She was also angry, she told me – at GM, at Trump and in all US companies that outsource jobs overseas.

A slightly modified transcript of our conversation follows. (At the time of going to press, GM had not responded to Vox's request for comment.)

Alexia Fernández Campbell

How long have you been at the Lordstown factory and what is your job there?

Nanette Senters

I have been here for 20 years. I watched [the factory] shrink a lot; I was here when the government saved us from failure [during the Great Recession].

I work in the body shop; it is essentially the assembly division of metals. I assemble parts and parts in the doors of the car. I work as a human robot every day, but we do not mind working hard. We have good benefits and pay.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Did you have any idea that layoffs were coming? How did you find?

Nanette Senters

No, I was shocked. On Monday at 9:30 am we were all summoned to the break room. They filmed a video stating that the plant would be closed in March 2019.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Who was the person in the video?

Nanette Senters

I do not know, some bigwig from GM.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

And then, what happened?

Nanette Senters

There was a dull breath. People started crying. All day, people were crying. Then we started to get angry more and more. We have done a lot for this company. It's an inhumane way to treat people.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Who do you think is responsible for that? GM says the demand is not enough for the Chevrolet Cruze.

Nanette Senters

There is a lot of criticism to be made. I want a lot from our president. I think it all started when Trump repealed the [Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard].

The CAFE standard meant that you could produce small energy efficient cars and that would balance the construction of big trucks and gasoline misuse. Building the Cruze meant that GM could also build many large trucks while meeting fuel efficiency standards.

When Trump repealed the CAFE standard, it further encouraged GM to get rid of the Chevrolet Cruze and proceed with this restructuring.

Then come its trade wars and its unfinished trade agreements, which hurt the entire country. Ford, Chrysler, Honeywell – they outsource all good union jobs. The jobs created are not good paying jobs. These are $ 12 jobs at the hour.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

How much do you win?

Nanette Senters

I earn $ 30 at the hour.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Have you heard of GM's removal of more jobs outside the country or Cruze plant in Mexico?

Nanette Senters

We were not told anything. Everything is vague. Then we were told that we could perhaps move on to another job, that there will be 3,000 new jobs at GM. But that means that 11,000 of us will be left behind.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Trump has threatened to punish GM for shutting down the factory. Do workers hope something will change?

Nanette Senters

All the president's rhetoric has divided the workforce horribly. I was here when Trump organized a rally here last summer. He said, do not sell your house, do not worry about it. I will bring back jobs.

I did not believe it. From the first day, I was able to see what he was – the way he managed to give false hope to people. Many people still hope that he will save them now. It's annoying.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

What do you think of GM's position: that society must do this to remain financially viable?

Nanette Senters

I'm sure GM is probably preparing for a possible recession. But they can do it more humanely.

Just saying you're done is a mistake. Yes, a business is supposed to make money. But they got all kinds of money from these tax cuts, and they still do it. I am so disappointed. They always take things on the workers.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Do you receive severance pay?

Nanette Senters

Yes, thank you god for our union. We have a union guarantee of nine months salary after March and we can keep our health care. But that will be about 90% of our salary and will reduce many benefits. We will not get bonuses or profit sharing.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

What are you going to do after that?

Nanette Senters

I will try to transfer to another factory. If it does not work, I will go back to school. I am single and if I have to move to Indiana or anywhere else, it will be difficult to take care of my 84 year old mother.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Can you find another job around Warren who pays $ 30 an hour?

Nanette Senters

No, not in this area. There are no good jobs here. It is a very depressed region; this factory has the best jobs here. People talk about the mills in the area, but they only pay $ 12 an hour.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

I've heard that some GM workers are asking Trump to cancel government contracts with GM and other companies that outsource jobs. What do you think of that?

Nanette Senters

It's a good idea and we sent him letters. But Trump is not willing to put his money where his mouth is. And so many of my colleagues, about half of them, continue to base all their hopes on Trump. I hope I'm wrong. I hope that it does something about the thousands of jobs that companies still send abroad. But he did not do anything against Carrier, Honeywell or Harley-Davidson.

Basically, since he was in power, it's an attack on high-paying jobs. What it does does not mean anything good for middle-class America.


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