“This is a symbol of where Michigan is going, this is a symbol of where Holland is going, and this is a symbol of where America’s going,” President Obama told a crowd at the groundbreaking for the LG Chem lithium ion battery plant outside of Holland, Michigan back in 2010.
Give that man a see-gar for being deadly — and tragically — accurate.
The LG Chem plant is supposed to supply the Chevy volt with batteries — 15 million a year while employing 300 people was the original goal. To that end, the government handed out a portion of the stim bill cash — a $151 million grant to the company, and told them to get busy. The state of Michigan threw in another $100 million or so in tax credits if the company were to meet certain hiring goals.
The hiring goals have not been met, no batteries are being made, and the workers are literally sitting on their hands with nothing to do.
Workers at LG Chem, a $300 million lithium-ion battery plant heavily funded by taxpayers, tell Target 8 that they have so little work to do that they spend hours playing cards and board games, reading magazines or watching movies.
They say it’s been going on for months.
“There would be up to 40 of us that would just sit in there during the day,” said former LG Chem employee Nicole Merryman, who said she quit in May.
“We were given assignments to go outside and clean; if we weren’t cleaning outside, we were cleaning inside. If there was nothing for us to do, we would study in the cafeteria, or we would sit and play cards, sit and read magazines,” said Merryman. “It’s really sad that all these people are sitting there and doing nothing, and it’s basically on taxpayer money.”
Two current employees told Target 8 that the game-playing continues because, as much as they want to work, they still have nothing to do.
“There’s a whole bunch of people, a whole bunch,” filling their time with card games and board games,” one of those current employees said.
That employee says some workers are doing odd jobs around the building, including cleaning and maintenance, while others hang out in the cafeteria playing video games, Texas hold-’em and Monopoly or doing Sudoku or crossword puzzles — all on company time. The employee said some watch movies.
“There’s no work, no work at all. Zero work,” another current employee said. “It is what it is. What do you do when there’s no work?”
They told Target 8 they didn’t want to talk on camera or be identified because workers signed a confidentiality agreement.
Randy Boileau, a Holland-based public relations specialist who was spokesman for LG Chem , says he no longer represents the company.
Target 8 left a message at the plant’s security station and left a message with the company’s receptionist. The receptionist would not transfer the call to a company manager.
Following that beautiful groundbreaking ceremony (a photo op that cost the taxpayers $533,000), the LG Chem factory was built. A few dozen workers were hired, trained, and proceeded to make about 100,000 test batteries (later recycled). They would ship parts to a Korean based company who would return the battery for assembly.(About 100 of 200 workers at the Korean company are subsidized by stim bill money.)
But the employees have nothing to do because GM is selling so few Chevy Volts that they’ve now shut down the factory making them. No Volts being manufactured means no batteries being made at LG Chem.
To the employees credit, they begged management to be allowed to go out into the community and help non-profits. LG Chem finally relented and many employees have assisted in some worthy projects.
If there was ever a perfect metaphor for Obama’s America, this is it.