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Documentary spotlights closing of Ohio GM plant

Documentary spotlights closing of Ohio GM plant

DAYTON, Ohio — Autoworkers who lost their jobs when General Motors Corp. closed an Ohio sport utility vehicle plant cheered at a screening of an HBO documentary profiling their lives.

Hundreds attended Wednesday night’s special screening of "The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant." The film chronicles their final months at the GM factory in Moraine, just south of Dayton.

About 1,100 people lost their jobs when GM closed the plant in December.

Some of the workers lingered Wednesday outside the Schuster Performing Arts Center to admire the final vehicle produced at the plant — a white GMC parked on the sidewalk.

Once inside, they cheered as the lights dimmed, but the theater grew silent when the sprawling, now empty plant appeared on the screen.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — One is staining his deck. Another is studying Web design. A third has given up off-roading to save money. All are unemployed, stripped of jobs they thought were safe forever.

Now, the autoworkers are stars of a documentary film that chronicles their final months at a General Motors Corp. sport utility vehicle plant in Moraine, just south of Dayton. They’re among nearly 1,100 people who lost their jobs when GM closed the plant in December.

Many of the workers plan to attend a special screening of HBO’s documentary, "The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant," on Wednesday night. The 40-minute film is scheduled to debut on Labor Day.

Darlene Henson, who worked at the plant for 20 years, plans to go to the screening, although reluctantly.

"It’s just like losing your family all over again," said Henson, 41, of Riverside. "I don’t want to relive it all again."

Henson has applied for training to be a medical assistant. She and her husband are trying to sell their house and hope to buy a smaller, less expensive place for themselves and their two children.

Some of the workers are eager to go to the screening and reunite with former colleagues. However, Louis Carter, who worked at the plant for 15 years, fears the reality of the closing will sink in after watching the film.

"I thought I would retire from there. I thought my kids would be working there one day," said Carter, a father of five. "All of a sudden, the doors just closed on us."

From last June through December, a film crew, led by producers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, shot footage of workers outside the plant, in nearby bars and restaurants, and even in the workers’ own cars. The workers themselves shot footage inside the plant.

"This in a way is a chronicle of the end of the blue-collar middle class," Bognar said.

Carter, 46, of Harrison Township, applied the bar-coded sticker to the final vehicle that rolled off the assembly line — a white GMC.

"It was kind of sad, knowing that that was going to be your last job coming off the line, and after that you were going to be laid off," he said.

GM said it closed the plant because high gasoline prices reduced demand for the vehicles built there. Moraine officials hope to attract another business to the site and have gotten a few nibbles, but no solid prospects.

Elsewhere, things are slowly starting to look up for the beleaguered auto industry. Shoppers are snapping up cars and trucks so quickly that GM said Tuesday it is boosting production for the rest of the year to keep up with the Cash for Clunkers demand.

It’s another sign that automakers believe consumers are returning to showrooms after a yearlong slump.

GM said it would add 60,000 vehicles to its production schedule in the third and fourth quarters and bring back about 1,350 laid-off workers. GM will add shifts to factories in Ingersoll, Ontario, and Lordstown, Ohio.

Paul Hurst was a GM toolmaker and machine repairman before losing his job when the Moraine plant closed. The past eight months have been rough for the 53-year-old Riverside man.

"There is a little bit of depression. There is a little bit of anxiety," Hurst said. "There is a little bit of: ‘What the hell am I going to do now?’"

Kate Geiger, who worked at the plant 24 years, is attending Sinclair Community College working toward a degree in visual communications. Besides losing her job, the 45-year-old Centerville woman has just gotten divorced, lost her home as a result of the breakup and had to move in with her father, who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

"I went through a pretty severe depression, and I think a lot of people are still in it," she said. "It’s like this big void."

The sprawling 4.4 million-square-foot complex, once a beehive of activity, sits vacant and silent.

"It was a sign of prosperity," Geiger said. "When you drove by there, it was almost like a cornerstone of our society in Dayton. Now, part of the foundation has been ripped out."

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