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Ohio Mayor Reacts To GM Plans To Cut Jobs At Local Plant

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Another town that relies on GM is Lordstown, Ohio. It's in the northeast part of the state. And today we asked the mayor there, Arno Hill, for his reaction to the news.

ARNO HILL: You know, I'm kind of disheartened that it happened, but I wasn't totally surprised.

CORNISH: The factory there was producing the Chevy Cruze. That car is going away. Do you have a sense of what's next for this plant? Is it being shuttered for good?

HILL: No, I don't think it's being shuttered for good. You know, the term they use - and I got this from Dave Green, the union president. He said they have an unallocated project. That means there's not a future product announced for this plant, but they did not announce that they were permanently shuttering the plant. To me, that's good news. Now, this next year's a contract year for General Motors, the UAW, and I'm sure that both sides are looking at this is something they want to put on the table.

CORNISH: What else did you hear out of this union press conference? Did you have a sense of how workers are feeling?

HILL: Everybody's very downhearted. They know they're making a great product. Labor management relations are the best they've ever been, and they have been for quite a while. But they also realize that the car is not selling. And, you know, the key is to get another product for this plant. I think we're the only GM facility with a metal fabricating plant right next door. And we are hoping with the quality of the product and the quality of the people working here, GM will nod our way and get us a future product.

CORNISH: Here's reaction that I heard from an unexpected place - the school superintendent, Terry Armstrong, who said, we've already seen school families negatively impacted by the elimination of the first and second shifts; now this news is just devastating. Can you talk about this?

HILL: You know, we still have quite a few people in Lordstown who work at the plant. And I'm sure when people get laid off, once the benefits start drying up or something like that, you know, they have to go find a job. And most of the jobs which are out there right now may not make a GM autoworker wage. So, you know, I'm sure that it is an adjustment. And right now we're looking at the plant - whether people take transfers if there are openings at another GM plant. But, you know, if the product isn't selling, you can't keep building stuff that people aren't going to buy.

CORNISH: But this question I guess coming from the school - this means that kids and families are feeling it.

HILL: Yes, they are. And, you know, I guess I don't have an answer for that one. You know, I know that the school has set up a pantry program. There's been people putting money into the pantry program if you need food. They're definitely taking a hit in their wallet.

CORNISH: You have been in city government since the early '90s. And in the past when there have been layoffs, it's often been because the company is in some kind of financial trouble. But in this case, GM is doing well. Its profits are up. How are people rationalizing this decision, workers in terms of how they're responding to it?

HILL: Well, they know their product isn't selling. And people know that you can't keep building a product nobody wants. We're - we have the right product at the wrong time I guess you could say because the quality of this car is fabulous. You know, the union has done a lot. They've made a lot of sacrifices. And, you know, the union's idea is, tell us what you need, and we'll deliver.

CORNISH: When you say we, it's sort of a reminder of how closely the community identifies with the company itself.

HILL: Absolutely. You know, they say that for every job General Motors has here, there are seven other jobs that are spun off from that, whether that be a grocery store, department store, a restaurant, a doctor's office, a car dealership. And everything will take a hit. So that's why we're hoping that we do get another product.

CORNISH: Arno Hill is the mayor of Lordstown in northeast Ohio. Thank you for speaking with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

HILL: OK, appreciate the call. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.