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GM plant closures will hit suppliers worldwide



This Tuesday, November 27, 2018, the file image shows a mural displayed on a wall at General Motors' Lordstown facility, in Lordstown, Ohio. (AP Photo / Tony Dejak, File)

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) – The leap from a comprehensive restructuring at General Motors and its planned closure of five North American factories in the coming months is putting thousands of positions with auto vendors share games too.

While GM expects that almost all of its US workers who are working to be eliminated to have the opportunity to move to factories that add jobs, it will not be the case for many in the supply chain who make parts, drive trucks, jobs in stock and keep GM's factories in operation.

For most people there is no safety net.

"There is nowhere to transfer. They have nowhere to go. Just out of work," said Dave Green, a Union leader near Youngstown, where GM plans to close its Chevrolet Cruze factory in early March.

GM's work contracts guarantee workers transfer rights and move money, but that's not true for the vast majority of supangs, even where workers are represented by unions.

"We've lost in shuffle," Brian Shina, who lost his supplier plant job when GM cut a shift at his Lordstown factory in May, months before he announced plans to shut it down. "We have no influence here."

Dominoes are already starting to fall. Space for Cruze and another business that does logistics and warehousing for GM in Ohio will also close in March, just three years ago, the two combined 800 workers.

Green has compiled a list of more than 50 other businesses where the work is related to the Ohio factory. But it is difficult to know how many people can be forced to cut jobs because many work for other auto plants and industries.

Despite varying estimates, some economists project that for each automated factory job lost, three or four additional positions are eliminated. Research shows that auto plants and production generally create more spinoff jobs than other industries.

"That's the biggest part of this," said Green, who is planning to attend President Donald Trump's Union State on Tuesday at the invitation of the Democratic rep. Tim Ryan, whose district includes the facility.

Trump, who has promised to revive production in the Midwest, has been heavily criticized by GM's announcement and threatened his administration to cut GM subsidies, even for electric cars. It is a particularly tough problem for the president, who won over a surprising number of democratic leaning unions during his first campaign.

There is still a chance that some of the factories targeted by GM could be revived during upcoming contract negotiations with the United States Auto Workers Union, which has promised to fight the closures. These include assembly facilities in Detroit and Oshawa, Ontario, and transfer facilities in Warren, Michigan, and near Baltimore.

Suppliers closest to factories that end up knocking down tend to be hardest hit because they are usually more dependent on these plants than those removed with a wider customer base, said Albert J. Sumell, a finance professor at Youngstown State University.

Workers at a sub-factory in Whitby, Ontario, resigned in January to protest GM's decision to close its Canadian factory while another nearby supplier factory announced it would be forced to close.

Many of the parts flowing into the transfer facility near Baltimore come from other states, including South Carolina and Tennessee, and some are delivered from Mexico and Canada, said Guy White, a UAW Trade Chairman in Maryland.

"There are many suppliers. That's great," he said. "We get things from all over the world."

Other jobs directly related to the facility are more likely to be at risk, including those supplying their machines or parts, White said.

Those who study the automotive industry say it is too early to know the full impact of GM's transformation from cars to focusing on trucks, SUVs, and electric and autonomous vehicles.

Some vendors expect to resist the potential losses from GM because they have made moves to diversify their customer base over the years after the big recession called the automotive industry.

Jamestown Industries, a small operation that provides front and rear bumper covers to Cruze, hopes that efforts to secure new business will allow the Youngstown facility to continue running.

The idea is to add work to storage, logistics and packaging outside the automotive industry, said Lawrence Long, the company's vice president of development.

But the plant is down from hree shift to one and is now ready to lose its biggest customer. Melissa Green, who has been working there for 14 years, is not optimistic and is planning to switch to nursing careers.

She will be able to go free to school through a state program that helps redundant workers, but will still need another job when her unemployment expires.

What also worries her is what will happen to the older workers who are only shy of retirement age.

"Many of them don't know what they're" going to do, "she said." Hopefully they can find something because they have to survive. "


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