At 8 a.m. Monday Mike Yakim walked the picket line at General Motors’ Lansing, Mich., Delta Township plant.
Less than 48 hours later, Yakim was on the picket line in front of GM’s largely vacated Lordstown Assembly plant in Ohio, where he had worked for more than eight years before GM idled it in March.
“Since we don’t have a lot of people at Lordstown, the union put out a note on Facebook that anyone in the area, retirees or anyone, can come give us a hand picketing,” said Yakim.
Yakim, 51, was not exactly in the area. He was some 280 miles away in Lansing, working his sixth day on the job at GM’s Lansing Delta Township plant.
Still, Yakim heeded his former home’s call and he is now is toggling between two worlds. He is prepared to walk two picket lines too: Lordstown this week, Lansing next week if the UAW’s strike against GM continues.
“I’m doing this because it’s the right thing to do,” said Yakim, from his home near Lordstown. “This is my plant and this is my home and this is where I want to be, and the guys in Lansing understand that.”
GM announced last fall that it would “unallocate” product to four U.S. plants, idling them indefinitely. Detroit-Hamtramck is one of them, but it continues to run. Transmission plants in Warren, Mich., and Baltimore are shuttered.
Lordstown built its final Cruze on March 6, then the 6.2 million-square foot factory went silent. Its thousands of workers are gone, many transferred to plants out of state, and the giant building is nearly vacant.
Yakim was working the last shift at the plant on March 6. He watched the final car roll off the line.
“It was like losing a friend, losing a family member,” Yakim said.
Yakim has worked at three GM plants that have shut down during his 25-year career with the company. Still, that ending at Lordstown haunts him.
“This is the fourth plant I have been to trying to chase the GM dream,” Yakim said.
Still calling Lordstown home, Yakim rents an apartment in Lansing and drives home to Ohio to be with his family on his days off.
Sunday, Sept. 15, was his sixth day on the job. He’s got the midnight shift, working 9 p.m.-6:30 a.m. But at one minute before midnight, his day came to a halt as the UAW began a nationwide strike against GM.
“At 11:59 when they pulled the cord on it, there were a lot of people who were looking around as to what to do and I said, ‘Come on, we’re done.’ I grabbed my stuff and rolled,” said Yakim.
Yakim was scheduled to walk the picket line in Lansing this Friday, but got permission from the president of UAW local to switch to Monday so that he could lend a hand to the scattered few outside of Lordstown the rest of this week.
So from 8 a.m.-noon Monday, Yakim walked the line in Lansing. He immediately got in his pickup and drove 280 miles to Lordstown, and by Wednesday morning he was on the picket line there with half a dozen union brothers and sisters. There was a homemade sign that read: “GM Invest in Lordstown.”
GM said in a media release Sunday that its initial contract offer to the UAW had solutions to keep Lordstown and Detroit-Hamtramck running.
GM would build an electric pickup at Detroit-Hamtramck and part of Lordstown would be used to make battery cells. Also, electric truck manufacturer Workhorse is part of a group that is in discussions with GM to buy Lordstown. Sources say that plan is still on the table.
Yakim said he plans to picket at Lordstown the rest of the week. If the UAW is still on strike Monday, his son, who is now in his second year of law school, will join him on the picket line in Lordstown. Yakim will head back to picket in Michigan later next week.
“This is home. I am not going to sell my house here,” Yakim said of Lordstown. “Whether I finish in Lansing or Lordstown, I plan to retire here.”