Chrysler Worker Takes Wait-And-See Approach

In December, automaker Chrysler announced the temporary closing of its plants. Many workers returned to work Monday after more than a month. Brian Peshek, a die-maker at a Chrysler plant in Twinsburg, Ohio, says workers are waiting to see how things play out at the troubled automaker.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

A week before Christmas, I spoke with a Chrysler autoworker who was being furloughed over the holidays. Brian Peshek works as a die-maker at a Chrysler stamping plant in Twinsburg, Ohio. The normal Christmas furlough at his plant was extended from two weeks to four, because of the bad economic times and the automaker's troubles. Well, yesterday, Brian Peshek went back to work and he joins us again.

Thanks for being with us, Brian.

Mr. BRIAN PESHEK (Die-Maker, Chrysler): Thank you.

BLOCK: And how was your first day back? What was the mood like there?

Mr. PESHEK: Not much has changed radically in terms of certainty or uncertainty about things. One of the persons I saw shortly after I walked in the gate was speculating that we were in the end of days.

BLOCK: Ooh.

Mr. PESHEK: And other people are just shrugging it off and smiling, and just trying to give their best effort to keep a positive attitude, as we wait and see how things play out.

BLOCK: Yeah. Well, you had thought you were headed for a four week furlough -double what you had planned on. And then, it turned out to be even longer than that. How long were you out?

Mr. PESHEK: I think it was a total of six weeks. It was a few days before Christmas and then the entire month of January.

BLOCK: And what'd you do?

Mr. PESHEK: You know, used to being - of course, the holiday keeps everyone busy, so that occupied me for a while. And then being a productive member of society, I tried to maintain productivity at home. Well, I don't know if I tried - I was compelled to. So, I sorted my screws by size. And I cleaned my work area in my basement. I, basically, puttered around the house and tried to stay busy without being maniacal.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Peshek, since we talked in December the automakers did get a bailout from Congress. Do you feel like you're on more solid footing now with Chrysler?

Mr. PESHEK: Hmm. This is purely an intuitive response but no, I do not.

BLOCK: Could you tell yesterday when you went back to work what the economic climate was for what you're doing right now?

Mr. PESHEK: Well, the plant that I work in is a stamping plant. And stamping plants can be extremely loud. And when I went back and the press line started firing up, I noticed it wasn't quite as loud. We could talk about numbers and economic indicators but, to me, how loud that press room is, is the most direct indicator of how things are.

BLOCK: You - when we talked in December - you joked that you were probably the only die-maker in the country who was going to have a master's degree in Chinese philosophy, working on your masters. You're seeing this as your possible path out, out of the auto industry, right?

Mr. PESHEK: I'm not so sure I'm going to get out of the automotive industry. I may, if my plant closes, I may have somewhere else to work. I think, you know, I may have skills to that may be useful to some people - in light of the way global manufacturing has been going.

BLOCK: Another tool to help you in this economy.

Mr. PESHEK: Yes. My fascination with Chinese culture, you know - I don't know why I have it, I mean, and that's why I began pursuing it - but as it turns out it may be a marketable asset.

BLOCK: When you imagine what that path out might be, where does that take you? What do you think you might end up doing?

Mr. PESHEK: I think I could work as the liaison between American purchasers and maybe Chinese suppliers, first, since they're stamping operations, die related work...

BLOCK: Mm-hmm.

Mr. PESHEK: To be honest, you know, I'm a little reluctant always to admit that. You know, because I kind of do feel like a traitor with this backup plan of mine.

BLOCK: Really?

Mr. PESHEK: Well, outsourcing and globalization has played a large part in the downfall of, you know, the American working-class. And I guess, in a way, I'm selling out, perhaps. But it's just where I'm at. I mean, my interests have taken me to this point. And my career in the automotive industry has got me at this point, which who knows where it will play out. And if things crumble or fall apart - which I hope they don't, because I'm really actually quite happy with my job and, you know, with my family here in this community. I hope I don't have to get in that lifeboat, truthfully. But if the ship sinks I'm going to have to do something.

BLOCK: Hmm. Mr. Peshek, we wish you all the best. Thanks for talking with us again.

Mr. PESHEK: Thank you.

BLOCK: Brian Peshek is a die-maker at a Chrysler plant in Twinsburg, Ohio.

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