Second Shift Returning to Belvidere Chrysler

By: Alice Barr
By: Alice Barr

Chrysler is recalling the second shift at the Belvidere plant this fall, thanks to increased Dodge Caliber sales. But given the ongoing turmoil in the auto industry, some employees aren't so sure this is all good news.

Kimberly Nelson says 30 to 40 percent of her business at Headlines Hair and Nail Salon comes from the Belvidere Chrysler plant. So cuts down the road, mean trimming back in here.

"The plant has definitely affected our community, because people just don't have the money to spend. They spread out their haircuts and their color they don't get done as often or don't get done at all," says Nelson.

So Nelson is happy to hear Chrysler is recalling 850 workers in the second shift at the Belvidere plant, starting October 5th. She says, "It's kind of exciting news hopefully it will help everybody."

The shift is coming back due to increased Dodge Caliber sales. The fuel-efficient model sold well under the "Cash for Clunkers" program and now Chrysler executives hope to build an extra 10,000 Calibers this year.
A Chrysler spokesman says all the workers on the layoff list from Belvidere will be recalled, with the exception of those who took the buyout.

"It kind of points to the fact that maybe the economy is picking up a little bit. It seems like there's greater demand for the more fuel efficient cars," says Belvidere Chrysler worker Lamarr Wooden.

But Chrysler representatives say the second shift is temporary. They can't say how long it will last, because that depends on consumer demand.

For workers like Curly Taylor that sets off some alarm. She's concerned Chrysler will fill the second shift with employees from other closed plants, who have greater seniority with the company. Then when the second shift shuts down again, Taylor says she could lose her job, because her seniority will drop compared to others in the new pool of workers.

"It's good news, bad news, good news, bad news. But we have to wait til the last minute to find out anything," says Taylor.

Belvidere's UAW president is in Detroit and did not return our calls for comment.

Chrysler is also advertising for temporary employees. A company statement lists as the website to apply. But as of 7:00 Thursday evening, that website was not up and running.

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