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Buyout decision looms for Ford workers

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KAI RYSSDAL: Would you take $140,000 to quit your job? Four years of college tuition, maybe? Ford Motor's hoping so. The company says its needs to trim 5 billion dollars in costs. It's closing factories and trying to cut 30,000 jobs. So Ford's making its blue-collar workers offers it hopes they can't refuse. But many of those workers on the assembly line have never had a job anywhere else. So starting today, the company's holding workshops and job fairs at the some of factories it plans to close. Danny Palomata works at Ford's plant in Norfolk, Virginia. Danny, how are you.

DANNY PALOMATA: I'm just fine.

RYSSDAL: What have you spent your day doing today?

PALOMATA: Well, basically, I came in for their presentation today. They had some type of orientation for this transition that's going on with us because they're getting ready to close the doors on us.

RYSSDAL: What sort of things are they orienting you about?

PALOMATA: They're trying to orient us on how to get a job. Resumes. Entrepreneurship. You know, owning your own business. And educational opportunities.

RYSSDAL: What do you think? How's it going?

PALOMATA: Well, coming out of a job, and you got a mortgage, you got two-three kids and you're like, "Oh my gosh. What an I gonna do now?" So, now, all I can do is brace myself and try to do the best I can. And the reason why I came in here is 'cause of they're gonna close the doors, I wanna start my own business. Start trying to own some real estate. Go into buying properties.

RYSSDAL: Now, how long have you been at that Ford plant?

PALOMATA: I've been here about seven years now. There's some that were, you know, 25 years. There was another one, 30 years, you know. . . .

RYSSDAL: Now, are you gonna take the buyout, do you think?

PALOMATA: Yeah. I'm just gonna go ahead, take the buy . . . I'm from this area, anyway, so . . .

RYSSDAL: How much are you gonna get?

PALOMATA: Possibly 100,000. You know, and after taxes it's probably close to about 62 or less. And I said I can't live on that.

RYSSDAL: There's a job fair tomorrow, do I have that right?

PALOMATA: Yessir. If I can talk to Stihl, the ones that make the chainsaws. Just in case. You know, a back-up. You know, you need a plan A, B and C. So, I hope they have MSC here, which is Military Sealift Command. I don't know, I might go with them. But I can't believe they're closing this place because this place has been here close to 81 years.

RYSSDAL: How are you feeling about Ford?

PALOMATA: You know, I got mixed emotions. You know what I'm saying? Just . . . Business is business, what can you do. But the thing is, I can't see why they would cut us and not them cutting the people out there in Detroit. To me, I feel like it's political. I used to think it was all about quality. From what's going on now, all I think is it's all about quantity.

RYSSDAL: Danny Palomata works at the Ford Assembly Plant in Norfolk, Virginia. It's on the list of plants to close by the end of 2008. They make the Ford F-150 there. Danny, take care.

PALOMATA: You, too, now.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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