TOLEDO, Ohio — Hundreds of workers at four General Motors plants due to close this year are facing a painful choice: Take the company’s offer to work at another factory – possibly hundreds of miles away – even if that means leaving behind their families, their homes and everything they’ve built. Or stay and risk losing their high-paying jobs.

The automaker says nearly all of its blue-collar U.S. workers with jobs in jeopardy have work waiting for them. Many from the targeted factories in Michigan, Ohio and Maryland already have voluntarily transferred to plants in the Midwest and South, not wanting to take a chance.

Others are still agonizing over the decision, unsure whether to sell their homes or hang onto hopes that their plants might reopen.

The automaker says the changes announced in November are needed to cut costs and put money into new vehicles. The plant closings still must be negotiated with the union, giving workers a sliver of hope.

Anthony Sarigianopoulos has put in 25 years at GM’s plant in Lordstown, Ohio, where the last Chevrolet Cruze will roll off the assembly line later this month.

He has two sons in elementary school and an ex-wife he gets along with, and his parents are just down the street in the Youngstown suburb where he grew up.

Sarigianopoulos, who checks and fixes cars at the end of the line, knows he is fortunate to have a shot at a job even if it’s somewhere else – unlike most of the 8,000 white-collar employees GM is laying off and those who are losing jobs at the automaker’s nearby parts suppliers.

But he also doesn’t want to move and miss out on ballgames and school concerts, knowing that his boys will be almost out of high school by the time he retires.

Volunteering to leave now for another plant would also mean he couldn’t come back if Lordstown reopened. But if he is forced to transfer once the plant closes, the option to return would still be open under his union contract. “That’s part of the chess match,” he said.

So Sarigianopoulos, 48, filled a notebook with charts and graphs outlining the pros and cons of transferring. What he has decided for now – unless he’s forced to transfer – is to stay and hope the plant will get a new vehicle to build.

Andrea Repasky didn’t have much of a choice. Even if it meant saying goodbye to her elderly parents, a niece she loves dearly, her favorite pizza place and her mom’s wedding soup.

She had to keep her job because she is a breast cancer survivor and runs the risk of the disease coming back. “I couldn’t afford to let my health benefits run out,” she said.

So the 42-year-old team leader at the plant volunteered to leave the Youngstown area for a new job in Indiana, allowing her to stay closer to home instead of being shipped to a plant in Tennessee or Texas.

“That was my goal, to be a car ride away if something, God forbid, happened to my family,” she said.

Repasky has been working for just over a month at GM’s truck plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where she shares an apartment with a friend who also transferred there.

While she desperately misses her family and everything about her hometown, she said her decision was easier because she isn’t married and has no children. Some coworkers moved without their children so that the youngsters could stay behind and finish the school year.

“I cry when I think about it,” Repasky said. “How do they explain to their kids that Mommy or Daddy is leaving and they’ll see you on the weekends?”


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