Rena and Dave Fleming -- both 26-year veterans of the General Motors assembly plant on Oklahoma City -- married after meeting there and recently finished building their dream house in nearby Moore. But on Monday, they learned they are among the 30,000 GM workers who will lose their jobs over the next three years.
"We were standing right next to each to other when we got the news today," said Rena Fleming. "It was just really quiet, really quiet. And I don't think it soaked in to everybody, but the whole day I felt numb. It felt like somebody had popped my balloon."
After earning $3.7 billion in 2004, GM lost that and more through the first nine months of this year, as sales of new cars and trucks fell. The company has decided to cut 30,000 hourly jobs and close 12 North American facilities by 2008. Some workers will receive early-retirement buyouts , but the details -- including a timetable -- haven't been decided.
'Are You OK?'
The announcement of the cutbacks stunned the Flemings and their colleagues.
"The whole crowd just turned around, just turned around," Dave Fleming said. "They didn't say nothing, they didn't do nothing, they were just like a bomb went off, they were shellshocked and they turned around and walked away."
"A friend of mine came up to me and said, 'Are you OK?'" Rena Fleming said. "I said, 'yeah.' She said, 'Are you really OK?' I said no."
"Twenty-six-and-a-half years, that's a long time," Rena Fleming added. "I wasn't ready to walk out the door yet."
General Motors' Fall
The massive layoffs at GM, the top car seller in the United States, have many wondering if the American auto industry will ever come back -- or even survive.
"It's not going to be the giant it was," said ABC News business correspondent Betsy Stark.
GM's share of the North American market declined to 25.6 percent in the third quarter, from 28.5 percent a year ago.
"The world changed on Detroit," Stark said. "They used to have the American consumer all to themselves. ... Detroit was slow to react."
American automakers have been relying heavily on SUV sales. Yet they have been facing increased foreign competition -- a new Chinese SUV will soon be selling at car dealerships for $10,000 -- as well as changing tastes as Americans want cars that use less gas. "Toyota owns the market right now for hybrid technology," Stark said.