Relocated GM workers get chance to go home, Relocated GM workers get chance to go home

September 28, 2012
Relocated GM workers get chance to go home
UAW deal lets them apply for hometown jobs, keep bonus
By MELISSA BURDEN / The Detroit News
Hundreds and possibly a few thousand General Motors Co. hourly workers who transferred to keep their jobs now could land jobs closer to home as part of a special United Auto Workers-GM agreement.

The pact, which the UAW and GM signed this month, gives some workers a one-time chance to get back to their home plant or region, without having to pay back a $30,000 relocation bonus and before meeting a three-year requirement.

The UAW negotiated with GM for the return option for several months, as many workers wrote heart-wrenching letters to the company and union about families remaining apart even while the company prospers and hires at many plants.

“I miss my home, I miss my life,” said Monica Nixon, 47, who has worked at the Lansing Delta Township Assembly Plant for more than 21/2 years.

She shares a one-bedroom apartment with her 20-year-old son Tallie Nixon III, more than 500 miles from the Tennessee home on which she continues to pay the mortgage.

“I miss everything about Tennessee,” she said.

Nixon has asked to transfer back to Spring Hill Assembly Plant in Tennessee, where she worked for nearly two decades before the plant was idled. Earlier this month, Spring Hill began producing the Chevrolet Equinox.

Nixon’s second choice is Bowling Green Assembly in Kentucky.

GM would not say Thursday how many workers are eligible for the special transfers. But the moves could potentially affect employment and hiring at numerous plants, as workers come back from some locations and leave for others.

GM spokesman Bill Grotz said the automaker has begun sending job-offer letters to some eligible employees.

There’s no guarantee Nixon will be able to transfer, but she said she’s thankful for the possibility. And she hopes that soon she won’t have to make the 81/2-hour drive to see family and friends. She has made the trip to Antioch, Tenn., seven times this year; her fiance has come to Lansing 12 times.

“It’s costing me so much money. I’m stressed out, and I’m just wishing and hoping (they) make some type of effort to get me back to Spring Hill,” she said. “If they offer me Bowling Green, I will take it because it’s an hour and a half from home.”

Workers who accept the special move won’t receive moving expenses. Those who are eligible took GM’s expanded relocation between Oct. 5, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2010; skilled trades are not eligible, according to the agreement.

“Placement opportunities will be based on employment needs at specific plants,” Grotz said in a statement.

Nixon is among hundreds of workers from Spring Hill who came to Lansing Delta Township after production of the Chevy Traverse was moved there from Spring Hill in late 2009.

So is Rick Martinez, shop chairman at UAW Local 602, which represents workers at Lansing Delta Township.

He said Spring Hill workers were anxious and took open jobs at the company’s Fairfax assembly plant in Kansas, Fort Wayne Assembly in Indiana, Flint Truck Assembly, Lordstown Assembly Plant in Ohio and the Arlington Assembly Plant in Texas.

“We are just really thankful, and the sanity factor is a lot better because there’s a chance that people may get an opportunity to get closer to their families,” Martinez said.

More than 300 who came from Spring Hill on an expanded relocation have requested a possible transfer, he said.

The majority want Spring Hill, but would be happy to land in Bowling Green, where Martinez said GM plans to add a second shift when production of the next-generation Chevrolet Corvette starts.

GM has not announced additional shifts for Bowling Green.

It’s unclear how many workers will be able to return to Spring Hill. Under a local UAW agreement, Spring Hill’s production line will be staffed primarily by entry-level workers.

Traditional employees earning higher pay can work in powertrain, stamping or components plants there. GM has said it will add another product at Spring Hill, which could boost job openings. The special transfer agreement also will allow some GM employees to return to Michigan plants.

Lansing Delta Township has an immediate need to hire 27 people; GM offered 22 of those jobs to workers who want to return to the area from plants such as Lordstown, Fairfax and Fort Wayne, Martinez said. Many previously worked at Orion Assembly Center in Orion Township, he said.

“I’ve got 22 people possibly who could get within driving distance of their family now by coming to Lansing Delta Township,” he said.

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