"Parts of me are very bitter": Workers at Ohio GM plant struggle through their last shift

Final shift at Ohio GM plant

Lordstown, Ohio — After more than half a century, a General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio stopped production. Sixteen hundred workers are affected, including Aaron Applegate, who worked at the plant for 11 years. Wednesday was his last shift.

"The last drive in is kind of bittersweet," he said.

Lordstown has been un-allocated, meaning the Chevy Cruze that rolls off the line this week is the last car they're making here, the last of 16 million vehicles since it opened in 1966. It's the largest of the four plants in the U.S. where GM plans to stop production this year.

More than 3,300 hourly workers will be laid off indefinitely, or 7 percent of GM's approximately 50,000 hourly employees nationwide. The cuts come as the automaker is reporting a near-record $12 billion profit last year.

"Punch in the gut": Ohio community talks impact of GM plant closing

Applegate brought his wife Jean Ann and his four children to Ohio 11 years ago, after his employer in Indiana shut down.

"Parts of me are very bitter. What makes you bitter is the fact that they're making profit year after year after year now, and we're not seeing it back," Applegate said. "It is not as simple as a number."

"But GM employees are a number because they don't care. I mean you're replaceable," Jean Ann Applegate said.

GM is offering transfers to other plants, and Applegate can apply, but it's complicated. Applegate's children include 13-year-old Austen, who has cerebral palsy and needs special care. Austen is slated for spinal surgery at the end of the month. GM health insurance is key.

"With my youngest son, he needs that," Applegate said.

"Great nurses that have been with him for years, that know him, that know how to treat his seizures," Jean Ann said.

GM's looming layoffs bring back bitter memories in Janesville, Wis.

CBS News wanted to know what they would tell GM CEO Mary Barra, whose ordered cuts come into response to market demand for big trucks and SUVs.

"For her to think that she can play God, and do whatever she wants to do with any GM family is wrong. I love living here. The friends, the neighbors, a community I can call whenever anything goes on with that little boy and they're here. And it is amazing. And I don't want to leave it. I don't want to," Jean Ann said.

At the plant Wednesday, Applegate was bolting brackets and finishing the trim just like every other day. But this wasn't every other day.

"When the last car pulled up and I had to go do my job on that final car it was kind of upsetting," he said."It was rough."

  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.