"We've been looking forward to this day for a long time," Tom Littlejohn said.
Belvidere's newly elected UAW Local 1268 president Tom Littlejohn is a busy, yet happy, man these days. In the coming months, his union will add hundreds of both new and old employees.
"These people have been very patient and expecting to get back to work, and there are 375 or so of these people in the bank, and we're looking forward to getting them all back to full employment," Littlejohn said.
While Daimler expansion work rolls on, so too does the hiring process. When the plant closes in late September for final construction, Littlejohn will know how many positions will be available. So far, more than 200 employees from other U.S. plants have shown interest.
"We still need 480 people to populate the 2nd shift. They're going to open that up to the rest of the corporation, and wherever there maybe indefinitely laid off people in the corporation, they're going to be afforded the opportunity to come to Belvidere also," Littlejohn said.
Littlejohn admits he's pleasantly surpised with one of the plant's three new vehicles - the Dodge Caliber. Two other small Jeeps - currently being developed - will also be produced, giving Belvidere unprecedented supply and demand capabilities.
"It does give us a lot more flexibility in the market, because if one of the vehicles is selling particularly better than the others, we can concentrate on building that. We can kind of change on the fly," Littlejohn said.
Revolutionary changes are on the way in added employees and production efficiency at the Daimler Chrysler plant.