Commentary #84: “As GM’s Lordstown plant idles, an iconic American job nears extinction”

Lordstown GM Plant

Image Credit: CNN

I saw this fascinating CNN article on Wednesday, March 6th:


The Lordstown, Ohio plant has been closed for nearly a week now. It made its last Chevy Cruze sedan on March 6th. Another sign of the times. General Motors (GM) has shrunk from more than 618,000 workers to just north of 100,000 people.

Auto manufacturing in the U.S. has been declining for a while now. The closure of Lordstown is part of GM’s shift in strategy – Away from sedans, more focus on higher-margin trucks and light SUVs, as well as researching and developing electric and autonomous vehicles. GM has also invested in a ridesharing platform called Maven.

In addition to a declining workforce, U.S. auto workers have experienced a drop in wages (Roughly 18 percent since 1990, adjusted for inflation), and less retirement benefits. Just two years ago, only eight percent of factories offered pensions.


Lordstown sits in the Youngstown, Ohio region, halfway between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The average worker in Youngstown made $38,000 per year in 2017. Compare that to $61,000 to $88,000 per year for full-time GM production workers, according to their United Auto Workers union contract. And that doesn’t include overtime pay and bonuses.

The Lordstown plant started to see changes about two years ago. As the demand for the Cruze sedan declined, the second and third shifts were cut, and 3,000 people were laid off. Of the remaining 1,400 people, about 400 accepted transfers to other plants, and they are able to hold on to their healthcare and pensions. There were 350 workers eligible for retirement. Those transferred workers will receive $30,000 in relocation assistance.

One of the workers interviewed for the article, at GM since 1995, thought she had enough seniority to transfer to another facility, such as the metal fabrication plant in Cleveland or the transmission factory in Toledo. However, relocating is not ideal, either. She’s stuck, quoted as saying GM has her in a “chokehold.”

“I make $32 an hour. I’m not going to go get a $12-an-hour job. I couldn’t survive on that at all. I’m going to get up and go, ride it out, try to get the best gig I can get, and be done with them.” She’s hoping to net her 30 years at GM – which won’t happen until 2025.


The Youngstown region has watched manufacturing slide downhill since the 1970s. The auto industry started to crack less than a decade later, with stiffer competition from Japanese automakers. In 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) dealt another blow, as work was outsourced to lower-paying suppliers. In 2007, as the automakers were having systemic issues related to the financial crisis and impending Great Recession, a lower-wage tier was created for entry-level workers, where they made 45 percent less per hour and got a 401(k) rather than a guaranteed pension. GM’s bankruptcy two years later tightened things even further.

For Lordstown, the community has thrived on GM. At one point, GM helped bring more than $2 million in tax revenue, among other benefits to schools and community ventures. Twenty years ago, Lordstown was competing with other cities to win another car model to replace the Chevy Cavalier. The community banded together, and along with plant officials, were successful in winning that car model. The community tried it again in 2018 – Posting signs, writing letters, and working with politicians. Unfortunately, one of the big factors was plant management wasn’t interested in participating this time.

Many are uncertain and fearful. They’ve watched GM shutter, and then re-open, their plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee. What if that happens in Lordstown?

Another problem is many GM workers were hired without secondary education. Nearly two-thirds of the 13,000 purported job openings in Youngstown, including information technology and healthcare, will require a post-secondary credential by 2021.

One bright spot is trade adjustment assistance, available to GM workers through the state and U.S. Department of Commerce. Truck driving certificates have been popular recently, due to the quick turnaround to earning them, and relatively good pay.


As Lordstown begins to adjust to life without GM, the local high school has started a training program for the logistics industry, helping prepare students for jobs in the various distribution centers in the area. Roughly 15 percent of students have parents worked in the plant. And they’ve already begun to experience losses, as families leave to accept those transfers at other GM plants.

TJ Maxx is building a facility that will employ 1,000 people locally. However, the wage difference is drastic. Where many at GM made $30 per hour or more, entry-level listings for other TJ Maxx facilities sit between $10 and $13.50 per hour.

However, Lordstown doesn’t want the shuttered plant to be turned over to Amazon, Tesla, or any other company. Not yet, anyway.


This story isn’t just about one GM plant in one Ohio town. It’s about history, the manufacturing industry, the changes in the American workforce, and what can be done for those who need jobs now.


Resources


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #111: Camp NaNoWriMo

I’m so excited to say that I will be a camper at Camp NaNoWriMo this year, for the very first time!


What is Camp NaNoWriMo, you ask?

Well, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is typically held in November of every year. However, there are camp sessions, too!

You can be placed in a “cabin” of certain preferences. When I signed up, there were different options for cabins. For me, I wanted to be placed in a cabin with writers that are around my age.

Here’s the landing page: Camp NaNoWriMo

It’s basically a writer’s retreat, in April!

It’s summer camp in the spring.

I’m loving it!


My main goal, like I commented on someone else’s blog recently, is to make significant progress with my 2012 NaNoWriMo endeavor / attempt. The last time I touched it was in September 2017, where I was on a great writing streak for a weekend.

Current word count: 11,216 words.

Goal: Write 20,000 more words by the end of camp.

Here’s the synopsis I recently put together for my work, tentatively titled “Experiences From Camp”:

Kristin, a teenager from Kansas, has heard of this experience called “Camp” in Maine. However, everyone who has gone there can’t accurately describe their experiences – Just a lot of mystery, suspense, some thrills, and a lot of chills. When she’s selected to go, she’s excited to meet Brennan, and see “camp” for herself. From the start, Kristin doesn’t get what she’s bargained for, and her excitement turns to absolute terror.


So, that’s all, for now! I’m excited to try something new!

I’ll be sure to make another post at the end of April or beginning of May, detailing my camp experiences and my successes!


What about you? Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo or Camp NaNoWriMo? I’d love to hear about it!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #39: “The Truth About Toxic Relationships” (Reblogged)

Carla’s post about toxic relationships is spot on. I sincerely appreciate her writing about this, since this topic is something I have been struggling with immensely, for a good while now.

No names mentioned, but seeing this post this morning makes me feel so much better, and so much less guilty.

Thank you, Carla!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #26: “Guest Post by Laura Beth @HotShotHeadlines: Raising Awareness About Domestic Violence” (Reblogged)

Domestic - pinterest

Image Credit: pinterest.com

Today, this blog post is a HUGE step for me.

For the first time, ever, I’m sharing my entire story — My entire experience from 2006 through 2010. Until now, I’ve mentioned pieces of it, here and there, on this blog. This took a lot of courage. It took me multiple drafts of an email, several days of reviewing and re-reading, feeling knots in my stomach and tears in my eyes.

I’ve wanted to do this for almost six years now, but something kept telling me to wait, to be patient, that the right venue or opportunity would come along.

Thanks to Carla and her amazing blog, she’s made it her mission to share those stories that need to be read / heard. Please check out her blog – The Melodramatic Confessions of Carla Louise. She balances tough, scorching topics – Feminism, rape culture, domestic violence, abuse, capital punishment – with awesome challenges about TV shows and music.

Carla has a disclaimer at the beginning of her post, but I’ll share a version of my own:

Disclaimer: This post contains graphic depictions of abuse, violence, sex, alcohol, and a few other difficult topics.

With that said, I welcome comments or questions. Please feel free to reach out to me, via commenting here, or by the information on my “Contact” page.

Thank you.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #12: “This Is Where It Ends”

This Is Where It Ends - Goodreads

Image Credit: goodreads.com

“You can’t always keep your loved ones with you. You can’t always settle your life in one place. The world was made to change. But as long as you cherish the memories and make new ones along on the way, no matter where you are, you’ll always be at home.”
Marieke Nijkamp, This Is Where It Ends


This is the second book from my 2016 Reading Challenge!


Back in early January, when I decided to embark on the reading challenge, I was immediately drawn toward this book. I remember reading the description on Goodreads, and then seconds later, heading for Amazon to order it.

It took me until the middle of June to finish it, but oh well!


I think my expectations were a bit high with this book. I admire what Nijkamp has attempted to accomplish here. But, considering I was wrapping up this book just days after the terrible massacre in Orlando, Florida, I felt a bit desensitized. To me, it felt like Columbine, but “updated” for 2016.

Also, this book is told from four different perspectives. I took that as a challenge when I decided to buy this book. If you remember my review of the Divergent trilogy, I have struggled with multi-perspective novels.

I’ve always had a strange fascination with crime and investigations and forensics. I’ve watched every episode of Cold Case and Forensic Files. This book took a high school shooting in a small Alabama town, and tried to put a modern spin on it. I appreciated Nijkamp’s attention to certain details, in particular, incorporating social media aspects.


But the multiple perspectives, once again, tripped me up. I really wanted to like it and make it work with my brain. However, since I wasn’t able to finish the book in quick succession, I had to backtrack a couple of times to find my place before I could forage ahead. That really bothered me.

On a more positive note, I liked the characters, and how they were all connected, in some way, to the shooter. Nijkamp was really invested in these characters and I could tell that she wanted to explore every detail possible, in the limited time frame that the book was set. Seeing the connections really made me want to finish the book, to see what the outcome was.

The ending was a bit of a letdown, and it was unsettling. But, as I was explaining these feelings to my husband, Al, he brought up a good point. The plot centers around a high school shooting, and the real-life massacre in Orlando had just happened. What more was I expecting?

I wondered that, too.

4 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #23: Home Ownership

Home - Pinterest

Image Credit: pinterest.com

I wanted to give everyone an update on why my posts have been few and far between recently.

A week ago today, Al and I closed on our first house.

We’re homeowners!


With that said, we’ve dived into the world of home improvements, head-first. The Home Depot, Lowe’s, thrift stores, and Craigslist are becoming our best friends.

I’m taking all of next week off from work, and I couldn’t be more excited. We’re having someone come in to help restore the original hardwood floors. My main goal for the week is to get the entire kitchen cleaned, organized, and filled with all of our amazing wedding gifts. We’ll hopefully have some fresh paint on the walls and ceilings, too!

So, that’s the main reason that I haven’t been posting recently or regularly.

There will be pictures, I promise!

More posts to come.

Thanks for reading!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #18: “Elevation Church Is Kind Of Unsettling – And Kind Of Beautiful”

ElevationChurch01

Image Credit: http://www.ls3p.com

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

~Hebrews 10: 24-25 (ESV)


Freckled Italian has done it again!

Megan included this link in her blog post on Friday, March 25, as part of her recurring “Friday Favorites” series.

I took a sick day last Friday after having a massive panic attack (More about that later, in another blog post), so I was skimming through Facebook late in the afternoon and found Megan’s post. Her comments fascinated me, as well as the comments from her readers. I skimmed through the story, and let it marinate for a couple days.

Here’s the link: Elevation Church is kind of unsettling – and kind of beautiful


After the initial skim, I sat down and read through Katie’s account, and I found it fascinating. She went to Elevation Church’s Blakeney venue in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Megan lives. The photo at the beginning of this post is what you would see from your seat there on a Sunday morning.

Wow.

Katie’s main observation:

“… I thought I’d try out the Blakeney venue because it’s a broadcast location, which means it functions like an indoor concert hall that’s loaded with media equipment plus a giant camera swiveling on a long arm to broadcast the sermon to other locations, and the Internet …”

So much technology!

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been to several Christian rock concerts in my time … but I can’t imagine experiencing that level every single Sunday.


I grew up in a traditional United Methodist Church – It’s been like a second home since I was four-years-old, and also where I married Al nearly five months ago.

However, over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to worship in multiple churches of different denominations – Catholic, Lutheran, United Church of Christ, Baptist, Presbyterian, and a non-denominational church too.

In the last few years, I’ve seen the rise of more contemporary churches – Holding services in movie theaters, theater venues, and other modern spaces.

There’s a local one, called The Rising, that holds its services in The NorVa. I did some reading on it, and watched a few videos. I love the pastor’s enthusiasm and his messages about modern struggles and relating those to the Bible and Jesus’s time. I’m all for getting people interested in the church with different approaches – Rock music, modern messages, etc.

I think that’s great.

But, that’s not for me.


I agree with Sara – One of Megan’s regular readers / commentators.

She said:

“… I love how diverse they are and how enthusiastic everyone is, but it all feels like show and less like worship. I want my worship experience to feel honest, and it’s hard to feel that way when every Sunday is a production …”

She hit the nail on the head for me.

I don’t feel that way with Aldersgate, but I can see how that perception can be formed.

I’m on the team that runs the computers and projectors for the 8:30 and 11:00 services, and I’ve gotten a great perspective from sitting in the booth and watching everything unfold.

Our 8:30 service is contemporary – The praise band has guitars, electric drums, bass, and keyboard. It’s more relaxed – Come as you are.

Our 11:00 service is traditional – Our long-time organist plays, we sing the hymns. Most people dress in their Sunday best.

I feel comfortable, and it makes sense when you’ve attended the same church for over 20 years.


I thought Megan’s take was interesting:

“I tend to get obsessed with churches that end up with cult followings and this one is no different. I’ve been listening to podcast episodes and reading everything I can about Elevation ever since we moved here in 2014, so I was excited to see this piece on my Twitter feed. (Also I love the way Katie worded her beliefs: ‘be kind, love more, try to see the divine in others.’)”

I wasn’t sure about the “cult followings” comment at first, but after reading Katie’s account, it makes sense. She almost didn’t get into the venue that Sunday because of capacity. In seeing Aldersgate’s membership numbers go up and down over the years, I can understand how Elevation Church is attractive to many different people.

Again, I think that’s awesome that they’re booming and seeing overflow crowds, but that’s not for me. I’ve found that I prefer smaller gatherings, and Aldersgate fills that need for me, for now.


I loved Katie’s account, and I’m glad I read it and took the time to write this post.

“Be kind, love more, try to see the divine in others.”

Sounds perfect to me.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂