Jan. 14—Bryan Moore and his wife, Dominique, have deep ties to General Motors — especially the Detroit/Hamtramck Assembly plant.
That’s where they met, fell in love and got married a year later. Today, they have five kids, and three — ages 6, 13 and 15 — still live with them at home.
Now the Troy couple worries that they could end up assigned to plants in different states, uprooting or even splitting up the family.
“This is our lives, our livelihood. … This has been a family thing,” Bryan Moore said. “We fell in love right here in Detroit–Hamtramck.
“I’ve known couples that have worked for General Motors that … have to live in different states and come together on the weekends and then go back. These are the things that we run the risk of having.”
The Moores were among a handful of GM workers who gathered Monday at United Auto Workers Local 22 to talk about their fears of having families ripped apart by upcoming layoffs and transfers, a result of the plant’s closure in May.
Local 22 president Celso Duque said the plant — which manufactures the Chevrolet Volt, Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac CT6 — is set to halt production on the Volt and LaCrosse on Feb. 18. The last day of production is set for May 31.
Bryan Moore, 41, who has worked at the Poletown plant for 21 years, explained that according to UAW-negotiated contracts, workers are able to submit their names for transfer to other GM plants.
Some workers have accepted a transfer to GM’sFlint Truck Assembly, while others await word on openings at plants across the country.
Seniority plays a role in the transfer process, Bryan Moore said.
Dominique, 34, has been at the plant for 11 years.
“We work the same shifts so we go home at the same time, we’re able to be with the kids at the same time, and now there can be changes, where now she’s in Indiana and I’m in Flint,” he said. “This can happen.”
Moore added he had gotten sick and was briefly hospitalized while some of his co-workers started to receive offers from the Flint plant, but he was skipped over while on medical leave.
Now, both are in limbo as they wait for word on placements and brace for upcoming layoffs.
“If our benefits run out, they run out together,” Bryan Moore said. “Our unemployment, when and if it runs out, it runs out together.”
Others at the plant are in the same boat.
Renee Dixon of Roseville is a single mother of twowho has worked on the plant’s production line since 2016, said she worries about transferring, because if she needs to move far away, she may not have help to take care of her kids. She added that her seniority isn’t high enough for her to be able to go into a shift that would allow her to see her kids, aged 10 and 6.
“I don’t have, unfortunately, any family that would be available to take my kids to and from school or watch them after. If I had to work at night, there would be nobody there to sit with them,” Dixon said.
“For myself, the best-best case scenario would be if this were all just a nightmare.”
While decisions about transfers happen above plant level, Duque said the union has been working hard to get answers for workers and support them during the transition.
For now, about 400 of the Detroit–Hamtramck workers represented by the union are expected to head to Flint, while about 200 face layoffs in the coming months.
Robert Patten, 47, of Waterford has worked at the plant for almost four years but has been with GM for 19. Patten has done stints at GM plants in Lake Orion, Romulus, Pontiac and Delta Township.
During the 2008-2009 bankruptcy, Patten said, he was laid off for more than a year until he was offered an assignment at the Romulus Powertrain Plant, then transferred to Lansing Delta Township Assembly.
“It’s the waiting game, and sometimes the waiting game can be strenuous, especially when it comes to your finances because you get in a position that you have done everything that you could possibly do, which is put in for these plants, but then you still have to wait. … You hurry up to do it, but then you wait,” he said.
Now, Patten said he’s received word that he will be among the Detroit–Hamtramck workers going to Flint.
“They’re putting us all back into either trim or chassis, is my understanding, and the thing about it, as you get older, some of the jobs you used to be able to do, are 10 times harder to do,” he said.
Patten said the plant’s closure will have an impact on his whole family — a loyal GM family.
“All my kids drive General Motors cars, my wife drives a General Motors car, I drive a General Motors car. My cousins. I got, on my mom’s side, nine uncles and aunts, they all drive General Motors cars, so when you talk about an impact, there’re three people in my family that still work for General Motors, one in Tennessee, one in Flint and me,” he said.
“If General Motors continues to do this type of business, what if those people in my immediate family start looking other places for cars to drive? … I don’t know if they look at that or understand that.”
News of the plant’s closure came as a shock for many workers, learning of it through local media, right after Thanksgiving.
Bryan Moore said workers have been loyal and deserve better.
“We — the rank and file members at General Motors — we took major concessions when the bankruptcy happened, with insurance, we took concessions with our pay, we adopted a second-tier wage system. … Now we’re looking for that same loyalty for us, to us,” he said.
Workers added that if the aim is to push GM into the future, that vision can be achieved by keeping the Detroit–Hamtramck plant.
“Best case scenario? General Motors is already in a position where they say they want to produce more autonomous and electric cars. Detroit–Hamtramck has already proven that we are willing to change and we meet every obstacle that comes our way,” Patten said.
Bill Norona, 42, of Wyandotte, who is going to be transferred to Flint, said his biggest concern is that it is the company’s oldest plant in North America.
“They’re a truck plant, they’re obviously relevant right now, especially with the economy and the gas, but at what point is GM going to decide, OK we have to put an ax on this plant because it’s not up-to-date technologically (with) autonomous capabilities,” he said.
“The plant that I’m leaving is 50 percent or more autonomous ready and that’s the plant you’re closing. … None of that really makes a lot of sense to me, but I’m on the union side and not the management side.”
Contact Aleanna Siacon at ASiacon@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter: @AleannaSiacon.
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