Janesville by Amy Goldstein

Janesville by Amy Goldstein

Author:Amy Goldstein
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Days later, Janesville’s fortunes get a fresh dent. Yet again, it comes from Detroit. That Friday night, General Motors and the United Auto Workers reach a tentative agreement on a new four-year labor contract. These labor negotiations have been GM’s first since Presidents George W. Bush and Obama agreed to the federal auto loans, since the GM bankruptcy and the restructuring that was its recovery strategy. During these negotiations, a minor issue has been the future of the company’s only two assembly plants that are on standby—Janesville and the one in Spring Hill, Tennessee, a bit south of Nashville, a newer plant that opened to make Chevy Saturns in 1989 and was making SUVs until production stopped two years ago.

To the people of Janesville, the issue is not minor. At the Job Center, Bob Borremans still sees the longing in clients for the assembly plant to reopen, with the ripple effect it would bring along of so many other jobs. Realist that he is, Bob likes to believe that most people are no longer really banking on this phoenix. Still, some do—people such as Marv Wopat, retired for three years by now after his quarter century as the plant’s employee assistance representative. Marv still holds a passionate belief that the plant’s reopening, which would end his son Matt’s workweeks in Indiana, is just a matter of time.

On the Friday night, word begins to slip out that the tentative contract would reopen Spring Hill. Janesville would stay closed.

As vice president of UAW Local 95, Dave Vaughn rushes to Detroit with Mike Marcks, his friend and fellow retiree who is the local’s president. Throughout the negotiations, the local has been urging the union international’s leaders to get the assembly plant reopened or—failing that—at least to keep it designated on standby, because standby is better than closed. Now they listen to the UAW’s president lay out the tentative terms. By the end of the month, the union’s members ratify the contract. General Motors announces that the new contract will create 6,400 jobs in the United States over the next four years. It will add just one percent to the corporation’s costs and give bonuses and larger profit-sharing to its workers. General Motors’ chief executive, Daniel Akerson, calls the contract “a win-win for both membership and the company.” It is, he says, “further evidence that this is really a new GM.”

And in Janesville? Disappointment, sure. Yet the old optimism, the old can-do flickers. Dave Vaughn and the other local officers are relieved that the UAW shielded the plant from a permanent death sentence. The same flicker of hope appears in the Gazette. If Spring Hill is going to reopen, a newspaper article reasons, doesn’t that mean that Janesville, General Motors’ only plant left on standby, is next in line?


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