Video: UAW workers fret over GM buyout

By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/22/2006 7:40:14 PM ET 2006-03-23T00:40:14

Darrell Ree is getting ready to work the night shift at the GM plant in Janesville, Wisc., where he's assembled car doors for 21 years, and where his father also worked for decades.

"Same thing, over and over, 10 hours a day," says Ree.

But now he has a choice his father didn't — to take an early retirement — a lump sum of money. Essentially, he can start a new life.

"I've just wanted to always do something different, like write," he says.

Ree, who has a college degree, says his job at GM has paid him well. But he says he's been "stuck on the line." 

"You can't pass up this pay, or benefits," he says.

For Ree, and many other affected workers, GM's effort to eliminate jobs without laying people off could present an opportunity. For some, it's a chance to leave.

"If you ain't got what you want in 30 years, you ain't going to get it in 35 or 40," says one worker.

But for others, there are concerns over their pensions and health benefits. In Detroit, near GM headquarters, Milton Myers isn't going to jump into anything.

"I'm really close to my full retirement age, where I can draw my full benefits," he says. "So I wouldn't make a move at this time. Not for no $35,000."

And some worry that buyout offers could transform towns.

"To see a lot of our people leave the community because maybe the wages and benefits will be attacked in the future is going to be devastating to Kokomo," says David Huff, a Delphi employee in that Indiana city.

But it's a future they've had to come to terms with as the auto industry has changed.

"It's not what it used to be, and that's a shame," says GM employee Charles Kortez in Hamtramck, Mich.

As for Darrell Ree, he says at this point in his life he has an opportunity. Tonight on the assembly line, like more than 100,000 auto workers, he'll be thinking about what could be next.

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