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GM will (possibly) hire new workers as its invests in U.S. plants

General Motors has announced it will invest a total of $2 billion in 17 of its U.S. plants. 

The investment also means the company will re-hire its 1,357 laid-off workers, and possibly hire hundreds of new workers, especially if demand for GM cars continues to improve.

At GM's Toledo Transmission plant, UAW members gather to hear about what it means for their plant:  a $200 million upgrade and the opportunity to build a new, fuel-efficient 8-speed transmission.

The  rock music blaring from the speakers at the press conference isn't “Happy Days Are Here Again.”  But workers like Matt Jaworski are feeling pretty happy.  He may only be a temporary worker, but he has absolutely no complaints.

"Things aren’t the greatest out there for jobs, so when you get an opportunity like this, you gotta take it," he says. 

25-year GM veteran Elizabeth Sammut is upbeat, too.  She says it was deeply depressing during the time of GM's bankruptcy.  Then she was laid off three months ago when GM closed its Willow Run plant. 

But she's been rehired at Toledo. 

"I have a whole new outlook and it’s just totally changed my mood, and I think a lot of people’s moods, too.  So it definitely looks like new beginnings," she says.

GM CEO Dan Akerson seems pretty happy, too, though he cautions the company still has a long way to go to realize its full potential.  

Ackerson was asked about a possible new worry for the company:  this summer’s upcoming contract talks with the UAW.    But Ackerson says the historically bitter relationship between the Detroit 3 and the union has changed. 

"Neither one of us want to be considered bad management, or greedy union, or greedy management, bad union.  This is not constructive, it’s not good for our customers, it’s not good for our shareholders, it’s not good for our employees."

That’s not to say there won’t be some fierce bones of contention.  Like whether GM should make its temporary workers permanent.

And over at Ford Motor Company, which the UAW may start negotiating with first, there’s a new webpage devoted to contract talking points. 

The company says its labor costs still aren’t competitive with foreign car companies in the U.S. 

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.