UAW 663 president Steve Lewis listens to the concerns of members after they were told to leave the plant Friday morning and that operations were to cease. John P. Cleary / The Herald Bulletin
UAW 663 president Steve Lewis listens to the concerns of members after they were told to leave the plant Friday morning and that operations were to cease. John P. Cleary / The Herald Bulletin
Justin Schneider, Herald Bulletin

Workers at the Guide Corp. plant in Anderson were sent home Friday and production halted as the company's long-expected shut-down became a reality.

Joe Ruffolo, executive vice president of human resources for Guide, said General Motors Corp. notified the company Thursday that facilities in Anderson, Pendleton and Monroe, La. would be shut down.

"Guide was advised that this action was being moved forward in order for GM to more quickly realize a cost advantage on the parts produced by Guide and is consistent with the strategy being implemented as part of GM's North American turnaround plan," Ruffolo read from a prepared statement.

"Guide employees at its manufacturing facilities and at its headquarters in Pendleton, Ind. are being notified that all remaining manufacturing operations are being discontinued effective today."

More than 1,200 people worked at the taillight plant located at 2915 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Another 150 worked at Guide's technology and customer support center in Pendleton, while 675 were employed in Monroe, La.

Ruffolo said most of Guide's hourly employees were laid off in December and the shut-down will affect 265 hourly employees.

"The remaining 160 hourly employees along with salary employees will begin the de-commissioning activities associated with idling the facilities," the statement concluded.

Workers at the Anderson plant were sent home around 10 a.m. Friday after a series of management meetings. Employees assembled at the headquarters of UAW Local 663, which represents Guide's hourly workers.

"We have been told to cease production immediately and to 'de-commission' the building," said Shop Chairman Rob Albright, who added that 114 workers will be brought back to the plant to complete the shut down. Selections will be made based upon seniority.

UAW Local 663 President Steve Lewis said employees will receive full pay for 40 hours a week for 60 days.

"We're talking with the international and, hopefully, this will expedite the process," Lewis said of contract talks with General Motors Corp. "When I asked them for a timetable, they said we're going to get it done ASAP."

During a Sept. 6 meeting in Detroit, Lewis and other local representatives gave the International UAW officials the authority to negotiate with Guide and GM. Guide has a contract with GM that expires in the spring of 2009, and Lewis said union officials are working to get GM to back the deal.

Guide's payroll and benefits office will remain open, according to Lewis. JobSource and Work One will set up temporary offices in the Local 663 headquarters and computers will be available for workers to sign up for unemployment benefits near the end of the 60-day period.

But many Friday were skeptical of any promised wages. Some Guide workers laid off in December say they have not received a paycheck in weeks.

Leander Wilson, who was laid off Dec. 15, said he has not received severance pay, although he has filed for employment and receives sub-pay to make up for the difference.

"They need to let people know what's going on," Wilson said.

He has used education benefits from the union to begin training as a heating and air conditioning technician through Ivy Tech Community College.

"I'm lucky I started early," said Wilson, 47. "But I still don't have money for books. Last week I received two checks for $100. How am I supposed to pay for books?

A manager at Guide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, called GM an "evil empire" that had victimized the people of Anderson.

"The people in this community, at the plant, basically gave their blood, sweat and tears," he said. "They were the ones who were meeting the bar, who exceeded the bar when they raised it."

On Oct. 18, Guide announced plans to shut down the Anderson facility by June 2007. But the management official said production has been at a standstill most of the week.

"We basically shut down production on Wednesday," the official said. "There has been a lot of talk about going up to Detroit and staging a demonstration outside of the headquarters there."

The announcement effectively signals the end of the automotive industry in Anderson. Only a handful of employees remain at Delphi's Plant 20, scheduled to close late this year.

Guide was founded in Cleveland, Ohio in 1906 as a motor vehicle lamp repair shop called Guide Motor Lamp Co. It was later acquired by GM before being spun off in 1998. During its most prosperous years, Guide employed 6,500 people.

This fall, Guide tendered buyout offers to many of its employees. Workers with less than 10 years' experience were offered $70,000, while those with more than 10 years were offered a $140,000 package or transfer to another facility.

In November, Maynards Auctioneers and Liquidators announced plans to hold auction off most of Guide's assets in beginning March 13, and it appears that date will be moved up.

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