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Manufacturing Concessions: Deindustrialization through Attrition at GM's Lordstown Assembly Plant

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Abstract:

The workforce at the GM auto assembly factory in Lordstown, Ohio, fabled in the industrial sociology literature because of its militancy during a 1972 labor dispute, has been slowly whittled down over the past two decades from a high of 12,000 in the early 1980’s to around 2500 today, primarily through the process of attrition: not hiring replacements for retiring employees, instead transferring these assembly jobs to its burgeoning production complexes in Mexico and to non-unionized domestic suppliers. To explain why this famously radical workforce has accepted this downsizing, this summary of a longitudinal interview project with workers moves beyond accepted accounts of deindustrialization by considering the political, material and ideological conditions underlying concessionary bargaining . As its threats to relocate production have become less credible and consequential, GM has turned to tactics which actively secure worker consent to job loss (Burawoy 1985). In sum, Lordstown has witnessed the replacement of a hegemonic despotism (in which threats of capital withdrawal constitute a “war of movement”), with a hegemonic despotism (whose job reductions through voluntary retirements entail a “war of attrition”).

Most Common Document Word Stems:

worker (126), plant (82), job (65), union (55), concess (50), work (49), lordstown (44), gm (42), labor (35), capit (33), year (33), one (29), close (28), would (26), manag (26), corpor (26), product (24), new (24), young (24), econom (21), secur (20),

Author's Keywords:

Labor Movements, Deindustrialization, Worker Identity, Concession Bargaining
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Name: American Sociological Association
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MLA Citation:

Sallaz, Jeffrey. "Manufacturing Concessions: Deindustrialization through Attrition at GM's Lordstown Assembly Plant" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Atlanta Hilton Hotel, Atlanta, GA, Aug 16, 2003 <Not Available>. 2009-05-26 <http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p107642_index.html>

APA Citation:

Sallaz, J. J. , 2003-08-16 "Manufacturing Concessions: Deindustrialization through Attrition at GM's Lordstown Assembly Plant" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Atlanta Hilton Hotel, Atlanta, GA Online <.PDF>. 2009-05-26 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p107642_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: The workforce at the GM auto assembly factory in Lordstown, Ohio, fabled in the industrial sociology literature because of its militancy during a 1972 labor dispute, has been slowly whittled down over the past two decades from a high of 12,000 in the early 1980’s to around 2500 today, primarily through the process of attrition: not hiring replacements for retiring employees, instead transferring these assembly jobs to its burgeoning production complexes in Mexico and to non-unionized domestic suppliers. To explain why this famously radical workforce has accepted this downsizing, this summary of a longitudinal interview project with workers moves beyond accepted accounts of deindustrialization by considering the political, material and ideological conditions underlying concessionary bargaining . As its threats to relocate production have become less credible and consequential, GM has turned to tactics which actively secure worker consent to job loss (Burawoy 1985). In sum, Lordstown has witnessed the replacement of a hegemonic despotism (in which threats of capital withdrawal constitute a “war of movement”), with a hegemonic despotism (whose job reductions through voluntary retirements entail a “war of attrition”).

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Document Type: .PDF
Page count: 20
Word count: 8350
Text sample:
1 Introduction The global energy crisis of the early 1970’s caught General Motors unaware and unprepared. The company’s large and expensive “gas-guzzlers ” endearing if environmentally unfriendly symbols of post-war American abundance were eschewed by a newly energy- and cost-conscious public in favor of smaller and more fuel-efficient (especially Japanese) imports. As profits plummeted a panicked corporate management attempted an “experiment” at its Lordstown Ohio assembly complex. On one hand the plant was to produce a trendsetting fuel-efficient small
Such calls on the part of current manufacturing workers were in fact well documented in early studies of plant closings (Dudley 1994 Nissen 1995 Lynd 1983). ix Since the mid 1980’s unemployment rates in the Youngstown-Warren area have been among the highest in the nation often hitting 25%. x Both Eli Chinoy (1955) and Milkman (1997) document this phenomenon as well. xi Usually implicit in the literature though occasionally specified in detail: “Insecurity acts directly on those it touches


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