Five years ago, more than 1,500 GM Lordstown employees worked their last shift, producing the last Chevy Cruze here in the Valley. Within months, those employees who wished to continue to work for General Motors were transferred to GM facilities around the country.

Gone with those employees were the high-paying salaries and benefits.

But now, more than 13 percent of those workers are coming home.

"Today is my last full day in Lansing, Michigan. I leave out of here tomorrow afternoon," Former GM employee Marisol Bowers said. "I'm going home. I'm going home and it's been a long five years," she said tearfully. 

Bowers has been away from her family and grandchildren since the plant closed, so she jumped at the opportunity to rejoin them but is cautiously optimistic. Tammy Daggy, another former GM Lordstown employee who was supposed to return to her family chose not to, due to fear and uncertainty.

"I pulled my name just because of the unknowns," Daggy said. "I work at a GM plant, it's what I know. Going to be a leased GM employee, I'm skeptical on that," she said.

The deal was that former GM Lordstown workers would be able to come back and work at Ultium Cells, which is a different plant with different work than these employees were used to.

"I don't think they should be concerned they're going to be GM employees even though they're going to be working at the Ultium facility and those folks that are transferring in are going to be GM employees just like they were wherever they worked," UAW Region 2B Director, David Green said.

There are 800 former GM Lordstown employees that have been approved to transfer to Ultium Cells in Lordstown and of that, around 200 are making the move. The first round is scheduled to begin work next week.

Ultium Cells has 2,000 employees and will add the former Lordstown transfers to its roster in the coming weeks.

Jobs at Ultium Cells for former Lordstown workers were first posted on April 15. GM Lordstown workers who were still employed on November 26, 2018, were given a one-time, first-chance opportunity to transfer to the Ultium Cells EV battery plant while keeping their pay and seniority.

Employees transferring backing will also be eligible to receive a Relocation Allowance as part of the National Agreement. However, if any employee wants to transfer to another UAW-GM facility, funding for relocation will not be provided unless the employee is on indefinite layoff from Ultium Cells.

The UAW National Agreement that was voted on late last year allowed for traditional auto manufacturing positions to transition to building EV batteries at its Lordstown facility.

Workers who meet the qualifications to transfer have until September put in for a transfer.

Also, late last week, a tentative local agreement was reached between the UAW and GM.

1,600 UAW members at Ultium Cells will be holding meetings Wednesday to go over the contract language, which includes wage increases, a ratification bonus, a 10 percent shift premium, overtime incentives, backpay for 401k, and local language specific for Ultium. Voting will take place Friday beginning at 5 a.m. and will end on Sunday at 5 a.m. at UAW Local 1112. 

In a post on the UAW website, UAW Region 2B Director David Green said, “Five years ago, when they closed Lordstown Assembly, it was a major gut punch – I know, I lived it.” Green added, “They wrote Lordstown off for dead. They thought we’d settle for low wages and unsafe jobs. They thought wrong, and now Ultium workers are leading the way.”