GM to Temporarily Close 20 Plants

Arlington plant's holiday shutdown extended until Jan. 20

The General Motors Corp. assembly plant in Arlington will be idle for two additional weeks in January.

GM said Friday it will cut 250,000 vehicles from its first-quarter production schedule by temporarily closing 20 factories across North America. The move affects most plants in the United States, Canada and Mexico, with many shut down for the whole month of January.

The assembly plant in Arlington will be closed from Dec. 23 to Jan. 20. The factory was previously scheduled to be closed for the holidays from Dec. 23 and Jan. 5.

Workers said they fear the shutdown could go even longer.

Luz Padilla-Neimann, a 10-year GM worker, is expecting a baby this month. She and other veteran employees say that GM being on the brink of bankruptcy is frightening.

"When we sit at our dinner table today, decisions will have to be made -- what we're going to do in the coming months and how we're going to get through these hard times," Padilla Neimann said.

Employee Yoleata Young said employees are not sure what the future brings and are "hoping and praying" for the best.

"I listen to people on the floor, and it's the not knowing from day to day what will happen," she said.

Employees said they were disappointed senators did not pass the loan package.

"It's part of the Congress's job to create the conditions to encourage people to go out and spend," UAW Local 276 President J.R. Flores said.

Senate Republicans wanted bigger concessions from the United Auto Workers and asked the union to agree to accept a lower pay and benefits package that would be in line with compensation earned by workers at U.S. factories producing cars for Japanese companies such as Honda, Toyota and Nissan.

"How much of our tax dollars went to bring these plants into the United States, with tax incentives, with free land?" Flores said.

About 2,500 people build almost 1,000 full-size sport utility vehicles a day at the Arlington plant, the only GM factory still making the big vehicles.

Arlington city leaders said a shutdown is bad for suppliers and neighbors, all of whom depend on the cash that flows from GM.

Park Cities Dodge Chrysler Jeep in Dallas is doing better than some dealerships, but the owner said an automaker bankruptcy would be very bad.

"I guarantee, we're building the best products we've ever built in America, and that's what we need -- we need American people to get into our stores," Leo Griggs said.

But people say they're not in a buying mood.

"I'm not going to buy a car no time soon; economic is hard, (the) money is not there," Mando Rodriguez said.

People such as Jim Simpson said the United States should not loan money to the Big Three.

"Private business should be operated profitably or they go out of business, period, end of discussion," he said.

GM and nearly all automakers who sell in the U.S. are mired in the worst sales slump in 26 years.

Cash-strapped GM is seeking government loans to stay in operation beyond the end of the year.

The Bush administration declared Friday it would step in to prevent the "precipitous collapse" of the U.S. auto industry and the disastrous loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs sure to follow.

A day after the sudden demise of rescue legislation in Congress, carmakers were talking with the administration and the Federal Reserve about how they could still get the billions of dollars they say they need to survive. The talks included conditions that automakers would have to meet, said GM spokesman Greg Martin.

The administration said no decisions had been made on the size or duration of the new bailout plan, or what type of concessions might be demanded from the struggling automakers, their workers, stockholders or others.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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