GM Plant in Janesville to Close

UPDATE: Friday, June 20, 2008 --- 8:10 a.m.

JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) -- General Motors Corp. has informed the state it plans to lay off an additional 96 workers from its Janesville assembly plant by mid-September.

The layoffs announced Thursday are in addition to the 756 workers who'll be let go next month. That's when the factory that makes trucks and other sport utility vehicles will scale back its production shifts from two to one.

In a filing with the state, GM says the latest layoffs will occur in late August or early September.

The auto maker also said Thursday that more than 18,000 employees across the nation have accepted buyout and early retirement offers. That includes 574 workers from the Janesville.

GM will close the plant by 2010 as it changes its focus from larger vehicles to more fuel-efficient ones.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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UPDATE Posted Wednesday, June 4, 2008 -- 4:46 pm
By Zac Schultz

Madison: GM workers in Janesville know they've got 18 months to convince GM to keep the assembly plant open and let them build a different kind of vehicle.

But it's not a bad idea for those workers to already start thinking about getting retrained for a new career.

Janesville Assembly workers have long been known within GM for their tremendous work ethic and high levels of productivity, and local job experts say those skills will serve them well during this transition.

Governor Doyle has already promised to help displaced GM workers with job training, even though he'd rather see them stay as car builders. "If we got to train them all to be computer programmers we'll do it, but that's kind of a waste of America's resources isn't it?" he said on Tuesday.

By 2010, 2,600 workers will need new jobs, and the Department of Workforce Development has published a list of the 50 fastest growing job fields in southcentral Wisconsin.

Most of the jobs are in health care or information technology.

While GM worer's current job skills won't translate, their skill sets will. "They need to be able to problem solve, they need to have good communication skills, they need to be really reliable," says Pat Schramm, the Executive Director of the non-profit Workforce Development Board.

They helped 585 Perry Judd employees find new jobs when the Waterloo printer closed in 2003. Schramm says they went into the medical technology and biotechnology fields. They just needed some retraining and a primer on medical terminology. "When you have people that actually understand manufacturing and they understand that team and cellular manufacturing, which is part of what General Motors has been a forerunner in, they make a really good transition into advanced manufacturing."

Ken McCullough is the Department Chair for Information Technology at MATC. He says half of his students are older adults trying to start new careers. While computer experience helps, he says the most important trait a GM worker has is work ethic. "If someone knows how to work hard and set goals and really apply themselves, knows how to plan out their time and accomplish a task, that really goes a long way towards success in our programs."

McCullough says every graduate in last year's class found a job in their field.

That trend is expected to continue, as the demand for information technology workers is expected to increase by 35% in the next decade.

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UPDATED Wednesday, June 4 --- 7:55am

JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) -- There was plenty of reaction to General Motors' announcement that it will close its Janesville plant and three others:

"There were some tears and a lot of people were kind of ticked off, but it's part of the business," said Scott Lambert, 39, of Janesville, who has worked at the plant for 13 years.

"It's going to have a devastating effect, but not as bad as if GM had pulled the plug 20 or 30 years ago," said Gary Green, professor of rural sociology and director of the Center for Community and Economic Development at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"It's something we knew was coming, I think, with the way gas prices are," said Ray Stafford, 77, of Janesville, who retired from the plant in 1988 after working there 33 years.

"It's the nature of an auto city. There's always the questions what the next production will be, how many vehicles will they make, how many workers will they need?" said Janesville city manager Steve Sheiffer.

"If GM's plans are fully carried out, this would be a big psychological and economic blow to our community and our state; but Janesville will survive this, because we simply have to survive this," said U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, a Republican who lives in Janesville.

"This is terrible news for the families of employees at GM, LSI, Lear, and other local suppliers. It is also devastating news for our local economy. ... However, I am confident that the communities of Rock County will recover. The people of Rock County are strong with an unwavering work ethic like no other. In the meantime, we are working closely with Gov. Doyle and others to examine all of our options," state Rep. Mike Sheridan, who retires as president of UAW Local 95 on June 13.

"Today's news is a painful reminder not only of the challenges America faces in our global economy, but of George Bush's failed economic policies. For eight long years, we've had an energy policy that funds both sides in the war on terror without promoting fuel efficiency or helping make our auto companies more competitive," said Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. The U.S. senator from Illinois visited Janesville before Wisconsin's primary in February.

"For generations, the people of Janesville have poured their heart and soul into General Motors and have proven to be an incredible asset for the company. GM should immediately take steps to ensure the continued success of the GM plant including retooling the plant for new production lines," said U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis.

"It's a tragedy that General Motors plans to close its plant in Janesville, leaving behind thousands of skilled and dedicated employees. The community of Janesville depends on these jobs, and I will do everything in my power to convince General Motors to reconsider their decision or help their employees find new work," said U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Tuesday, June 3 --- 6:00pm

Following the announcement by General Motors that it planned to close its Janesville plant by 2010, U.S. Senators Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl and Representative Paul Ryan sent the following letter to General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner asking him to reconsider the decision to close the Janesville GM plant and requesting a meeting to discuss the possible retooling of the plant for different production lines.

Letter:

Dear Mr. Wagoner:
We are writing to express our unwavering support for the continuation of operations at the General Motors plant in Janesville, Wisconsin. We are deeply disappointed by GM's announcement that the company will close the plant in 2010. As you know, the GM plant has been a vital part of the Janesville community for generations. The Janesville plant has a continued role to play in the future success of GM and we ask that GM reconsider the decision to close the Janesville plant.

On May 1st of this year, we wrote to you asking that GM take future steps to ensure the continued success of the Janesville plant, including considering the assignment of new production models at the plant. We renew that request now. Our letter also expressed strong support for the Janesville workforce and noted the many accomplishments of the Janesville GM employees, including their constant efforts to improve productivity and product quality. Your response, dated May 14th, did not address the assignment of future production models, but did acknowledge the important contributions the Janesville workers have made to GM, noting that, "the Janesville team has worked diligently to improve health and safety performance, quality, reduce costs and run the plant efficiently."

We believe that the Janesville workers would bring the same dedication and effectiveness to a new product line. We recognize that market demand in the automobile industry is changing and that GM intends to adapt to the changing demand to remain a viable company. But rather than closing the Janesville plant, a retooled Janesville GM plant can assist in GM's efforts to adapt to a changing market. The Janesville workforce is first-rate and the Janesville workers have proven their commitment to GM generation after generation. The Janesville GM workers will be strong partners in a retooled Janesville GM plant.

We ask that you reconsider the decision to close the Janesville GM plant and request a meeting with you as soon as possible to discuss GM's plans for the Janesville plant, including the possibility of retooling the plant for different production lines. This announcement by GM will have an enormous effect on Janesville and southern Wisconsin, particularly for the GM workers and their families, related businesses, and the Janesville community at large. We would appreciate your prompt response to our letter.

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UPDATED Tuesday, June 3 --- 2:40pm

The State of Wisconsin is already working to help General Motors workers and other auto-related workers in Janesville. The Department of Workforce Development will continue to expand on the work already in progress since the initial round of GM layoffs was announced this spring.

Steps the Department is taking to help GM and other affected workers include:

- DWD has formed and dispatched Rapid Response Teams to meet with the affected GM employees and other auto-related workers to expedite unemployment claims and give workers access to job training and placement services. DWD is scheduling worker orientation meetings for those already laid off and is poised to expand these orientations for all other affected workers.

- DWD has in place $75,000 in Rapid Response grants at the request of the Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board to initiate services for the workers from GM and other affected plants. A grant for over $190,000 to increase service capacity at the Janesville Job Center over the next year has also been submitted to the Council on Workforce Investment.

- DWD is working with the company and the union to petition for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) benefits from the U.S. Department of Labor, which may allow for the extension of unemployment benefits for two years and up to $15,000 for additional education and re-training for eligible workers.

- DWD will explore other avenues of assistance and determine the needs of affected GM employees and other auto-related workers in the weeks ahead. DWD will be requesting additional funding from the U.S. Department of Labor to assist these workers through the National Emergency Grant (NEG) program, which provides funding to states when significant events create a sudden need for assistance.

Affected workers are encouraged to contact their local Job Center to inquire about services by visiting www.wisconsinjobcenter.org/directory or calling toll free 888-258-9966.

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UPDATED Tuesday, June 3 --- 1:40pm

JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Jim Doyle says General Motors' announcement that it will close its plant in Janesville is in many ways "like hearing about a death in the family."

"We're trying to sort out our emotions and figure out where we are going," Doyle told autoworkers at a union hall here.

But the governor also says the state will work with the city and other local governments to make sure good jobs are brought to the area.

He says workers in Janesville have done "everything right" and made money for GM for years. He says the company should have anticipated that other types of vehicles would be needed as gas prices rose.

The Janesville plant makes Chevy Suburbans and Tahoes and GMC Yukon and Denali SUVs.

GM chief executive Rick Wagoner said Tuesday it will end production of medium-duty trucks by the end of 2009 and SUV production by the end of 2010 -- possibly sooner.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Tuesday, June 3 --- 11:00am

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin officials are reviewing whether any of the $10 million given to General Motors for its Janesville plant can be recouped.

The auto maker announced on Tuesday that it will close the plant in 2010.

The state gave GM $10 million in grants in 2004 to help the plant with a $175 million upgrade.

Those grants required the plant to keep at least 3,330 workers on staff through 2010. It currently employs about 2,600.

Gov. Jim Doyle's spokesman Lee Sensenbrenner says terms of the deal are being reviewed to see what money the state can take back. He says GM has spent about $9.3 million of the grant.

Doyle planned to speak to plant workers Tuesday afternoon.

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UPDATED Tuesday, June 3 --- 10:50am

JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) -- Some automakers in Janesville say closing the General Motors plant seemed inevitable as gas prices continued to climb.

Ray Stafford retired from the Janesville plant in 1988 after working there for 33 years. The 77-year-old Stafford says workers have faced the possibility of the plant closing for a long time. He says as gas prices rose, it was probable GM would phase out production of the large SUVs -- Chevy Suburbans, Tahoes, GMC Yukon and Denali models.

Janesville's economic development director, Doug Venable, says there's been more uncertainty about GM as the automotive industry has suffered.

GM Chief executive Rick Wagoner made the announcement today before the automaker's annual meeting in Wilmington, Delaware. He says the Janesville factory will end production of medium-duty trucks by the end of 2009 and SUV production by the end of 2010 - possibly sooner.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

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UPDATED Tuesday, June 3 --- 7:15 am

At the GM news conference this morning, GM Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner addressed how GM is viewing the auto market with caution. "Higher gasoline prices are changing consumer behavior, and rapidly. This is not a spike or a temporary shift, it's permanent," he said.

Wagoner announced a need to address rapid changes in consumer demands.

GM plans to over time cease production at four plants:
Oshawa, Canada 2009
Moraine, Ohio 2010 or sooner if demand dictates.
Janesville, Wisconsin 2010 or sooner if demand dictates
Toluca, Mexico

Employees at all four plants were notified this morning.

"These are for sure difficult decisions," Wagoner said. He also said GM would be working with employees at these four plants to make the transitions easier.

Wagoner also announced that GM will be undertaking a strategic plan to review the Hummer brand, to see how it now fits into what GM seeks to accomplish. Things GM is considering are a complete revamp of the product, or a complete or partial sale of the brand.

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JANESVILLE – Wisconsin’s First District Congressman Paul Ryan made the following statement in response to today’s announcement by General Motors, indicating that the Janesville plant will likely close its doors by 2010:

“Today’s news is downright gut-wrenching for Janesville. Growing up and living in Janesville, this is something we’ve always feared. First of all, my thoughts and prayers are with the workers and their families, many of whom I’ve grown up with and am still close friends with. If GM’s plans are fully carried out, this would be a big psychological and economic blow to our community and our state; but Janesville will survive this, because we simply have to survive this. As I have witnessed time and again, I have faith that our community will pull together to support one another in the difficult days ahead. It is my hope that as this 2010 shutdown date approaches, Janesville will be in a better position to reverse this decision.”

In an effort to provide assistance and support for those hit hardest by this morning’s announcement, Congressman Ryan, a fifth-generation Janesville native, will continue to work closely with union leaders, GM officials, and members of the Janesville community.

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Statement from Sen. Kedzie:

The news of today is not only bad for Janesville and the surrounding area, but also for the State of Wisconsin. The General Motors plant has been a mainstay for generations of hard-working men and women who want to provide for their families and the community where they call home. The plant closing will also create an overwhelming ripple effect for the suppliers of GM, as well as the hundreds of businesses that rely on the workers as their base of financial support.

Over the last ten years, Wisconsin has initiated several incentive programs and creative partnerships with GM and the City of Janesville in an effort to attract new business and retain the manufacturing core in south central Wisconsin. But now, we must turn our attention to assisting displaced workers and finding new opportunities for them to keep the local and state economy strong. Both the City and the State have a great challenge ahead to help so many individuals affected by this closing, but I believe we will meet that challenge head on.

The City of Janesville and the numerous communities that border my legislative district have a unique strength of character and pride in community. Over the years, I have had the privilege of meeting many of those individuals and working with local business and union leaders, elected officials, and members of the workforce to better our area of the state. All of us must work cooperatively and swiftly to assist our friends and neighbors who face uncertain days ahead. Hopefully, a concerted effort and focus on long term economic recovery will restore optimism during this difficult time.

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Statement from Whitewater Chancellor Richard Telfer on GM plant closing:

“General Motors Corp. has long been vital component of southeastern Wisconsin’s economy. The loss of the plant will be felt throughout the state. As the GM workers begin to think about their futures, UW-Whitewater is prepared to assist them by providing career support and the opportunity to begin or finish a degree. There are any number of other services workers can access including online courses and the Small Business Development Center. These services can aid people as they transition into new careers. UW-Whitewater is proud of the services that we provide to help non-traditional students succeed. Our campus is committed to helping Janesville and the region grow despite this set back. I will make our desire to help known to the GM management team, the city of Janesville and Rock County.”

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WASHINGTON, DC – US Senator Herb Kohl issued the following statement in response to the news that General Motors will be closing its plant in Janesville by 2010:

“It’s a tragedy that General Motors plans to close its plant in Janesville, leaving behind thousands of skilled and dedicated employees. The community of Janesville depends on these jobs, and I will do everything in my power to convince General Motors to reconsider their decision or help their employees find new work.

“Today I’m urging officials at the Labor Department to make job training and transitional assistance for GM’s employees readily available. The people at the Janesville GM plant are second to none, and I hope that GM supports these employees with the same loyalty and commitment that these men and women have brought to the job everyday.”

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Sen. Judy Robson, who represents Janesville, Beloit and Whitewater in the State Senate, issued the following statement regarding General Motors’ announcement that it will close all operations at the Janesville plant by the fourth quarter of 2010:

“This is devastating news for Janesville and the region, but we have the wherewithal to pick ourselves up and fill the void left by the loss of these manufacturing jobs. My heart goes out to the workers and families whose futures are thrown into uncertainty – not only General Motors workers, but those who work for GM suppliers and so many local businesses whose fortunes go hand in hand with GM. The ripple effect will be felt far and wide. But we will do everything we can at the state level to cushion the blow with job re-training and aggressive economic development efforts. We have a can-do spirit that can overcome this blow.

“We are in an especially good position to attract new business and industry because of our skilled and highly motivated workforce, our excellent educational systems, and our strong infrastructure of roads and municipal services. Blackhawk Technical College is flexible and ready to train the workers to fill the new jobs of today and tomorrow. That’s what businesses are looking for.

“As Americans look for more fuel-efficient transportation, there will be opportunities to create and attract industries that fill that demand. I will work closely with Governor Doyle, the City of Janesville , and Forward Janesville to find ways to nurture and attract the industries that will be emerging in this time of greater demand for fuel efficiency and renewable energy.”

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U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold:

“For generations, the people of Janesville have poured their heart and soul into General Motors and have proven to be an incredible asset for the company. GM should immediately take steps to ensure the continued success of the GM plant including retooling the plant for new production lines. I will continue to work with Governor Doyle, Senator Kohl, Congressman Ryan, state and local officials, related businesses, and the leadership of GM to do all I can to support an ongoing and vital GM presence in Janesville. The people of Janesville have worked too hard for too long to deserve anything less.”

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A statement from Barack Obama:

"My heart goes out to the workers and families affected by the closing of these GM plants, including the Janesville plant that I visited a few months ago. Today's news is a painful reminder not only of the challenges America faces in our global economy, but of George Bush’s failed economic policies. For eight long years, we’ve had an energy policy that funds both sides in the war on terror without promoting fuel efficiency or helping make our auto companies more competitive. That’s part of the reason thousands of more Americans in Wisconsin and Ohio will no longer be able to count on a paycheck at a time when they’re already being pinched by rising costs. Unlike John McCain, I’m not in this race to extend the failed Bush economic policies; I’m in this race to end them. I’ve proposed investing $150 billion over ten years in green energy and creating up to five million new green jobs. We’ll finally provide domestic automakers with the funding they need to retool their factories and make fuel-efficient and alternative fuel cars. And we’ll invest in efforts to make sure that the cars of the future are made where they always have been -- in the United States . Because the fight for American manufacturing is the fight for America ’s future – and I believe that’s a fight this country will win."

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Statement of State Rep. Mike Sheridan,
Retiring UAW Local 95 President:

"This is terrible news for the families of employees at GM, LSI, Lear, and other local suppliers. It is also devastating news for our local economy. Unfortunately, current gas prices are the latest and most severe threat to hit the Janesville Assembly Plant, including the Great Depression, a world war, and the oil crises of the 1970s. However, I am confident that the communities of Rock County will recover. The people of Rock County are strong with an unwavering work ethic like no other. In the meantime, we are working closely with Governor Doyle and others to examine all of our options."


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