tv Amy Goldstein Discusses Janesville CSPAN May 20, 2017 8:01am-9:23am EDT
we with visit trenton, new jersey to talk to local authors an visit the city's literary sites. that all happens this weekend on booktv. 48 hours of nonfiction authors and books every weekend on c-span2, television for serious readers. first up here's a look at working class america, told through the experiences of the residents of janesville, wisconsin.
> good afternoon. good afternoon. thank you. this is not my mic i'm not used to it so i kopght hear if you could hear me. thank you for joining us for ow program with author amy gold sustain who will discuss her book janesville an american story i'm renée here at the public library. at this time, i would look to ask that you turn off or silence all of your electronic devices. also, at the end of today's program ms. goldstein will have time for question and answer and then be available under the skylight to autograph books. we do still have a few available i think if you're interested in
purchasing a book and you didn't get a yellow post it with a number see phil in the back. also with the q and a, i just want to make sure that we're all going to be on our best behavior. [laughter] ms. goldstein is here to talk about her book. she's not a politician. [laughter] and you will get to ask questions like i said you'll raise your hand. i'll bring you the mic, and you don't need please don't start talking until i have the mic right in front of your face. as i said there are a number of limited books and $27 and they'll be available to purchase after the program it is they're $27 and that can be cash or check made out to book world.
if we run out of books ms. goldstein has book plates that she'll be happy to autothe graph, and you can purchase the book from book world or the bookstore on madison mystery to me. >> let's see okay. according to ms. goldstein bio washington potion website, she has been a staff writer at the washington post for more than a quarter century. over the years, she has written widely about social policy issues including medicare and medicaid, social security, welfare, housing, and the strains placed on social safety net by the great recession. she also has been a white house correspondent and covered notable news events ranging from monica lewinsky scandal to the columbine shootings and gold
steeb was a part of washington post reporters awarded the 2002 pulitzer prize for national reporting for the newspapers coverage of 9/11. and the government's response to the attacks -- she was also a 2009 pulitzer prize finalist for national reporting for an investigative series she wrote with her co-host on treat of immigrants betakenned by the federal government. from the amazon summary of her book janesville an american story is amy goldstein's intimate account of the followed of the closing of the general motors assembly plant in janesville and a larger story of the hallowing the american middle-class. ms. goldstein has spent years immersed in janesville including lots of time right here at headburg where the nation's oldest operating general motors plant shut down in the midst of
the great recession two days before christmas, 2008. her book takes the reader deep into the lives of autoworkers, educators, bankers, politicians, and job reare trainers to show why it's so hard in 21st centuro recreate healthy prosperous working class. this is the story of what happens to an industrial town in the american heartland when its factory stills but it's not the familiar tale. most observers record the immediate shot of vanished jobs but few stay around long u enough to notice what happens next when a community with a can do spirit tries to pick itself up. which i think janesville is that can do community. please join me in giving a janesville welcome to amy goldstein.
[applause] >> thank you renée for that lovely introduction, and i'm blown away by how many of you are here. and the first thing i want to say is standing here it feeling presump to talk about your story which you've been generous enough to share with me. i really say thank you. this has been the biggest work of my career, and thank you for helping me to do it. you know being here today is pretty emotional actually i wanted to make clear that i wasn't going start crying in front of television camera here today because i arrived here as a complete stranger in 2011. and there are people in this room today who are my friends now who have welcomed me into your living rooms, welcomed me into your classroom to welcome me into your offices. who have is showed me the file it is in the janesville room
here at the public library. people who have really helped me understand this community. and i'm so grateful and i can't tell you how touched and humbled imby the size of the crowd in this room. it means a lot to me. and i'm also interested to hear your questions and to hear your take on what i've learned and what i've written. because this is everall how i see your story and it may not be exactly how you see your story. so i'm looking forward to hearing your thoughtses after i speak for a few minutes. and i thought i would just read you a little bit from the first page of the book. which starts -- in a day that will be very familiar to many of you. 7:07 a.m., the last reaches end of the assembly line. outside it is sill dark. 15 degrees with 33 into the snow nearly a december record piled up and drifting as a stinging wind across the acre of parking
lots. inside the janesville assembly plant the lights are blazing. and the crowd is thick. workers who are about to walk out of the plant and into uncertain futures stand along side pension retirees who have walked back in, and chest height with nostalgia. all of these jammers have followed tahoe snakes town the line and cheering, hug about, weeping. the final tahoe is a beauty, is a black ltz fully loaded with heated seats and aluminum wheels and audio system and a sticker price of $57 745 and going to be for sale in this economy in which almost no one anymore wants to buy a fancy general motors suv. five men including one in a santa hat stand in front of the signmy black suv holding a wide banner. it is white face is crammed with
worker signatures. last vehicle off the janesville assembly line, banner says with a date, december rd, 2008. it is destined for county historic society. television crews far away as netherlands and japan have come to film this moment when oldest plant of the nation's largest automotor turns out. so closing of the assembly plant two day before christmas is well recorded. this is the story of what happens next. so i thought some of you might be interested in hearing a little bit about why a journalist who works and livers in washington, d.c. was suddenly stop? janesville, wisconsin and keep coming back for years. well, there are a couple of reasons, in a big picture way and my career i've been drawn for a long time the stories that it lie at the intersection of politics and public policy and help explain how ordinary people are efnghted efnghted by both so
it is very much in that tradition. i just got a little carried away this time. [laughter] more specific region is when great recession arrived at the end of 2007 i was covering a broad policy beat for "the washington post and renée mentioned i finished cowriting about foreign centers the government had locked away immigration detention facility while it was trying to report them with bad medical care they were getting and i looked up after series was over and thought what was interesting now and i became very interested in how this bad, economic time was changing people's lives. so i started to write a few stories to "the washington post" about this. i'm just going to read you a couple of paragraphs from one that that i wrote out of swees, florida, about people signing up for well pair for the first time l. here in florida, is elsewhere
the new face of welfare includes people who have tumbled from the middle-class and higher after losing jobs savings and self-reliance and some really returning to welfare years after they thought they found permanent work and independence and the county that includes fort myers, nearly 40% of the 812 people who applied for welfare in october had never before asked for help. i got to do what i got to do to get by. tony robyn at 23 and five months pregnant as she sat fluent a black computer terminal in room one typing an application for cash assistance. she and her husband jason opened tiptop tile, and cape karl, florida, in 1996, and most years they earn about $50,000. but this business sale years ago in southwestern florida, building boom collapsed. now i wrote that story in december, 2008. turns out to be the same month
that your assembly plant closed but i didn't know it at the time. so if you remember back then, all of the job losses were not happening just in janesville, there were so many kinds of jobs going away all over the country that i got pretty focused on this. and over the next couple of years i really kept an eye on how other journalists were writing about this bad economic time. and there were two main kinds of writing that was going on back then. there were stories that were about the economy and the government's response to the bad economic times and whether the background that barack obama pushed through congress doing anied go or not. so these were kind of economic and -- political stories about the fighting that was going on in congress over that administration's policies. and then more political stories in the midterm election for congress in 2010. when i saw a lot of writers
focused on the anxiety of voters about about voter anger and voter apathy and i started to think i didn't really see anyone putting those two things together. and i had this idea that you couldn't really understand why americans were angry or were anxious unless you really understood the personal economic experiences or their fear that their neighbor had lost a job and maybe they would be next. and i found a study that pugh foundation did in 2009 that looked at 10,000 new stories about great recession the first half of 2009. they found that most of those stories were about government bailout and banks and the autoindustry. and of those 10 thorks thousand stories how much about average americans? 5%. well this struck me as a really huge and important gap. it seemed that we all knew the unemployment statistics but we
didn't understand what it was like to have work go our way. and i can only say that i became obsessed with this idea of trying to do something about this. because i had this impression that something fundamental was changing in this country about peoples' faith in their work that they had always expected to be around. and i became really on saysed with with the idea of finding one community that had lost a lot of its best work to do a closeup of what really really happened to people to workers, to families, with to the community itself when all of this work vanished. and i have the idea that if i could focus on one community, it could be a microcosm or metaphor that could help people by looking at what experience was close why and in one place to think about what was going on all around them. now, i became so obsessed about this, i did something that i had never done in my long career i arranged to take a leave from my job to try to write longest
piece of work i've never done in my life. if you think about it if you're going to write in a microcosm you better choose prate well. so u how you might wonder did i end up in janesville when there were all of these other communities losing work too. and -- i didn't know this community. i didn't have any family l here. i had never been here and i didn't have any friends here. but i had heard about janesville which i had nef heard about before in 2009 when i was looking for a setting for one of the stories i did about recession efnghts effects for washington post and there was a community in wisconsin that had lost a big general motors plant and i thought that was interesting but i didn't come here at the time because this had just happened as you know a lot of people worked for general motors itself were sill getting sub pay so economic paying for some peengt had begun to seep in.
so i didn't come and it lingered in my mind and after taking off from my job i kept thinking about various places i could go. something inside me just kept telling me that janesville might be the place. so why was that? one reason was that i immediated to find a place that had lost a lot of jobs and you definitely qualified. i don't have to tell you thousands of jobs left from around here, there are different figures that you can see. but looking at the bureau of labor statistic figures, in 2008 and in 2009, about 9,000 jobs left this county. a lot of jobs -- and if you look at what happened to the unemployment rate here at this time, in june of 2008 when the announcement was made that general motors was going to shut down production here unemployment rate was 5.4%. in march of 2009, a few months after the last of these jobs
disappeared, unemployment has shot up to over 13%. so on the job loss front, you were a winner. or a loser -- [laughter] beyond that, i had this sense that i wanted to tell the story of what this big recession had done. so it was important to me that i find a place that had not previously been part of the belt because i didn't want to find myself writing about accumulation of neck decay but show what one bad economic time l did. so flynt, gn was an old story is and i wanted to find a place where economic trouble was new. and, obviously, the general motors assembly manhattan had been shrinking more and a little bit more over a couple of decades. but it always got a new product. so this clothing -- was a different thing that nobody in town had ever experienced and that was appealing to me not that i was happy for you but appealing to me --
as a place to potentially do this writing, do this, this talking to people about what was happening in their community. you know, i had this sense that their place is exactly like every place. but as much as potential i thought it would be interesting to find a community to write about where the pattern of job is losses matched pretty well, the national pattern of jobs that went away in this great recession. so if you think about what happened nationally, the largest proportion of jobs that disappeared were manufacturing sector that was two of janesville. a lot of jobs that were lost were jobs that had paid pretty well but had not required a lot of higher education to get. that was to janesville. more men than women lost jobs in this recession. that was two janesville so i thought that this was a community what that had had a number of the qualities in lost jobs that other people around the country would understand and could identify with.
i also had this sense that janesville might fit nicely into the sweep of history. i remember the first time i found a youtube video for a speech that then senator barack obama gave at the assembly plant in february of 2008. i don't know if any of you remember are him coming. and i remember the first time i listened to the videos saying, the the promise of janesville is a promise of america. and that line gave me goose bumps because -- i heard that youtube video couple of years after a the assembly plant closed that there was irony by then to what this presidential candidate who became president was saying. and, of course, janesville had been part of the sit-down strike of the 1930s. and the assembly plant part of the domestic war effort in world war ii and plant started turning out artillery shells, and a, of course, parker pen had been from here and own moments in 20th
century history so i just is like that sweep of history. and, of course, before i knew anything about this community or have met anybody here, i had the sense that i might find some interesting politics. i just thought there might be something interesting about an old uaw town that was represented by scott walker in state government represented and congress by paul ryan in the the state that was led by scott walker. so you know it was a journalist i tried to bring all of my reporting instincts to bare to think about what might be a get setting and i decided that i was going to make exploratory visit to janesville. and i first came here in july of 2011. and i had arrange ad to meet some people there are a couple of people in the room here who were part of that first visit who i met on this couple days that i was here and very first person i met in town -- i had set up a meeting with him was stan myland who was,
obviously, an old time -- .biz et reporter who had left the newspaper and was on a different radio show than one he's on now and was working as an education consultant. he had an office in what used to be parker world penn headquarters and renovated into offices. and stan and i talked and talked and talked for a couple of hours we talked about about the history of this community. we talked about what it was leak when he was growing up a boy and talked about what assembly plant meant and what was happen nog, and we just talked for probably two or three hours nonstop. and finally he said to me, about would you like to see the plant? i said -- of course i would. so i got in the car of this man i had never known before three hours earlier and we drove down center avenue and turn left on dull van and there was the plant, obviously, it was huge and never seen it before. this huge big fill 4.8 million
square feet closed autoplant and as we were approaching, stan said something to that day that surprised me. he said i hate to go by this. so i said why? it was sort of a surprise to me stan if you know him is a pretty tough character. he's a veteran reporter. he calls himself a cynic i tend to agree. [laughter] you know he was not somebody who struck me as somebody who would be not go there, and a his grandfather worked there and a let buy his first chevy, and when this man i had just met that day said that to me there's something in this community about the relationship between this closed plant and people sense of work and people sense of what life ought to be like and wasn't anymore. soy kept coming back. for a lot of years --
[laughter] now i have met and spoken with many, many people in town many more people can can fit even into a book that has a lot of people in it. [laughter] and that's really where my gratitude comes in because i've learned all of you who i met over last six years and what i've tried to do is get to know people in town. obviously, i don't know all of you but i've tried to get ton people who have various vantage points many this community. people who were at the assembly plant people who are at the suppliers, people who were teachers who tried to figure the how to help kids who families i could tell were hurting. people who did economic development work and i really wanted to understand how this thing looked from lots of poem's perspectives. and i was really slow to figure out who are beginning to be the main people in my book because i felt that i couldn't pick who were -- funny to talk about characters
and some of you who are actually in the room you're real people. but you're also book characters at this point. and i felt that i couldn't really pick who were going to be the main characters in this this story i wanted to tell until i upped what were the choices that different people make and what were the range of choices so i could figure out who could be good people for those choices. and i arrived in 2011 which was, obviously, two and a half years are after assembly plant had shutdown and i true from the beginning that i would need to go become in time so that i could tell the story from the moment that the announcement happened this this town was going to be changed so i knew i would have to find people to talk to who could kind of go back a couple of years with me and explain what life had been like before i showed up on the scene. i also had the sense that i needed to understand the history of this community.
as renée said i spent time reading in janesville room and spent time at the historic society. because i wanted to understand what the industrial past of janesville had been. i wanted to understand where the pride and work that was done here came from. i wanted to understand what the identity and expectations of janesville were so that i could understand what it felt like when things were changing. so i did a lot of historical work. now, one of the things that really struck me when i started showing up and talking to more and more people was that when this plant closed, there was a lot of disbelief and denial that it was for real. you know, i've showed up two and a half years after stopped here and i kept running into people who said just wait. it's a matter of time before it comes back does that sound particular to you? [laughter] i thought why was that? well that was because this assembly pleasant started making
tractors in 1919 and chevrolets on valentine's day of 1923 and every time a product went away from the plant another product are eventually showed up so no expectation, no experience with it not happening again. so what had i began to see was that people made choices about what to do next and sometimes came to think about it what choices do people make when best working class choices of jobs were gone? so people began to make choices but a lot of cases i pound found it took people a while to settle into what they were going to do. so when i finally chose people who are going to be the heart of this story, i looked for people who had made different ones of these choices, and you know it could have been many of you in the community but i had to pick some people. so i want to tell you about some of the people who i chose for this book and some of them are in the room which is really great to see you.
[laughter] so one of the families at the vons old family in town as you might know. they were one of a couple of families in town with -- three generations of people of -- in the executive committee of uaw local 95, and i was really interested in what the role of the union had been here and what happened with the union when afl these jobs went away. so i got to knowday von and wife, barb both mark and mike worked at lear and chairman at lear and she went become to black hawk as a lot of people did. she did very well. mike tried to find a union job it wasn't to easy to find one. he decided to go into human resources management. he actually did great at school. he got a job and making a good go of it. but he had to really decide that going into management was an
okay transition to make. explain to me many times he felt he could help people from the union side to help people doing human reare sources work from the management side. but that's a very thoughtful kind of transition that somebody made the here in town. another family that i write about is the world pat. some of you might know march pat for a quarter century and matt had worked at the plant at general motor for 13 years and dad retired as few weeks before matt had his layoff. and i talked to them about what it was like for marv to have his big retirement party knowing he had two kids about to lose their work. and matt also went back to school. he was doing very well. he thought he would try to go into utility wok and studying
electropower distribution and before he was to finish up, he really began to think hard about whether job would be waiting at other end. and like a lot of people, i mean the world pat like all of the families that i've written about were very financially responsible people but finances weren't so good. and as you all know people who worked at general motors had an advantage that people at the suppliers didn't have which was that they have transfer rights so matt became a jm gypsies he took an offer at fort wayne. he's been commuting there for seven years and he's got eight years to go until he's eligible for retirement and to this day he leaves every monday morning and friday night late at night works second shift so he can more or less wake up in janesville three mornings out of the week. and then i wrote about the the whitakers. now, jared whitaker got work
tammy in the front row got work. been working one job and started working two jobs, and jared didn't want to leave his family. and his family didn't want to leave janesville like a lot of people and a lot of attachments all of the relatives in the area just didn't want to move to another part of the country. so jared and tammy decided best thing was to tick a buyout it wasn't. few thousand dollars. but it came with six months of health insurance. and that was had important when jared was working a job that didn't come health insurance at the time. now, i've got to say i fell in love with their daughters. [laughter] i met their daughters who were twins melissa and kasia high school senior own told me about what life had been like years before that. these girls are smart kids honor students taking ap classes -- and between them they're working
five part-time jobs. there are other kids in town who did the same thing. but whitaker girls i got to know the best. and they had a sense of responsibility that they could see that their parents were struggling. their parents were working and not bringing enough money so girls began slipping their parents a little bit of minnesota to pay utility bill, go grocery shopping every now and then. whitaker girls are doing great and went to platville one graduate already in three years to save on tuition money and she's becoming social work with and studying for masters now and melissa is going to be an engineer. so they're doing great. but i was really struck at what it disease to a family all of had is trying as hard and members trying as hard as they can to make a go of it. really changes life -- so those are the closeups that i take in the story of families few other workers who wonder on and off the story but main
families that i wanted this not just to be a story of workers. i wanted it to be about what happens to a community and what other people in town do when they see that there's more need coming along that had been happening in this community before. so another person i wrote about was dairy when i met here now who is here -- and the founder of the parker closet. i don't know if you know this, but a lot of schools now have closets which are places where kids who immediate a little bit of help can quietly privately without a lot of attention on them come to get use jeans, prom dresses, donate food, get toiletry, get school supply. so dairy created this at parker high school. and i just thought that was a really interesting example of resourcefulness within a school. i also write about mary wilmer
her last name changed too since she's the goen married but she and diane copound 5.0 so i was interested in local development effort has been like and rock can county 5.0 supposed to be going for five years and is still beginning and it and janesville obl trying very hard to -- bring businesses to town. so i try to get into their perspective on what they thought they should be doing to. he the community. boarman who is here today is somebody else who i got to know pretty well and part of the story. bob was at the job center which was ground zero for where are people whengt they lost their work. so bob taught me a lot about what kind of options were available people what kind of funding there was retraining and how people try to help people piepgd jobs. so bob's perspective was a valuable one in seeing who comes in when people don't have work anymore.
and what their options are and what aren't and how hard it is to get yourself back on feet even as you're trying as hard as you can. i write about ann a social worker in the janesville school system and she was a cofounder of something called project 1649 that some of you probably know about which has been an effort that has gone on for years try to raise money to house uncompany pad holeless kids because there are more homeless teens in the school system and a i was really moved by ann telling me how when she and -- a counterpart in the school system got going just talking to people about the pact that there were homeless teenagers in janesville. people didn't believe it. you know, that's not janesville image of itself, right? i mean this is not a place where people had homelessness. so she's really exposed and done a lot of good work to try to
help people understand what kinds of needs some kids have. and there are politicians in the book. see that tim colin arrived nice to see you, tim. and tim was the head of the co-chair was brad dutcher of the task force that then governor doyle appointed to try to rescue the plant. and i was very interested many what that effort works and what it takes for a state in the community, county to try to pull reare sources together and a really bad economic time to try to per scwaid general no stores that this was the plant janesville was a place what general motors should choose when it was gong to start manufacturing the first car that gm had had made domestically in a long time and i think it's fair to say that everybody from the governor on down thought that janesville had a really good chance to get this car. but didn't work out. so tim taught me a lot about what that effort was like and
about other things that have been changing in town. i got to know people at black hawk tech. sharon kennedy came back today for this sharon no longer lives in janesville to honored she's back to hear about this story that she helped to teach me. so i was very interested in job retraining and what the college was doing and how well it was going. so those are some of the people in the story and they're people who some of you know. they're people who most readers in my book do not know. but i wanted to have closeups showing what it was like for individuals to do the best they can to try to bring back the economy of the town that lost the heart of its work. now, in addition to these closeups i also wanted to find a way to show these individual stories i'm tell were part of a broader truth in this part of wisconsin. so i did a -- coif a nerdy journalist as journalists go and i did a couple of things with help from
academics i did two studies. one was a study of job restraining looking at our people who were getting unemployment benefits in this area. 2008, 2009, 2010, what happened to people who had gone back to school and people who didn't. so we got data from the state is work force development. work department work rather. got data from the college. did a lot of statistical analysis with help of a lot of labor economists who could do things that i didn't know how to do and found really interesting and sober patterns because it turned out that if you look at how many people working what their pay was, back in 2007 before the recession, and then you looked at thousand things were in 2011 which was when got this data through so year are after this work went away.
people have gone back to school unplansed not doing well and not saying mob was doing well. mike in the room did did great, mike did great barb mice to see you both. so it is not that mob did well. but on balance -- people just didn't get good jobs and good pay just because they went back to school. and that caused me to think a lot and there's you know some kind of illumination in the story about why that was. what that says about what kind of jobs you need in the community to have retraining turn out to be beneficial to broad numbers of people. i became convinced that black hawks doing a great job, i mean, it had a couple of thousand factory workers come back. huge numbers of people went back to school. and if you think about it, imagine you worked in a factory for a long time in your 30s, 40s you haven't been to school for a long time. might not have been a great student to start with. don't have any money anymore. you don't know what's going to be next.
and you have to start studying -- that is a scary thing for a lot of people to do. so black hawk i came to think really had tried very interesting ways to help these students starting computer boot camp and became clear that people didn't know how to use computers very well starting study skill programs. but despite all of that effort, nots everybody who went back to school benefited from at least not right away. and then other -- nerdy thing i did was a survey and i did this with the university of wisconsin survey center it was a survey of rock county. and it was a mail survey i don't know whether yif you got questionnaire but sent out questionnaire about 2,000 poem and more than half of the people who got these surveys mailed them back which had for survey work was great. and what this survey was looking at was what were people's economic experiences and attitudes this was in 2013 so it was five years four and a half, with five years depending on
when you had on second shift or last shift that closed down after all of this work had had vanished. and one of the questions that really l blew me away was simply asking people do you think the recession is over? so five years later -- three yearts said they didn't think it was over. we asked about -- people's personal financial systems not people who lost work but people in rock county. financial situation better or worse than it was five years before when the session began. over half said it was -- over half said it was worse. just 18% said if financial situation gotten better in those years. >> now i was interested in how many households were affected directly by a lost job. and it turned out that 35% of the people who answered this
survey said they or someone in their home had lost a job. if you think about how many families were touched by all of this job loss, i mean, it was huge. and then i asked a series of questions say i cropped this a couple of sociologist -- just the the people who had lost a job or had somebody in their home lose a job and the the question was -- have you noticed any of this happening to you? whole bunch of choices. so 75% of the people who had lost a job or someone in their home lost a job said therm losing sleep. we asked are you having strange family relations 63% said yes. do you find yourself avoiding social situations? almost half said yes. and the question that i found most heartbreaking was do you find yourself embarrassed or ashamed about being out of work.
just over half said yes. and with that said to me that combined with all of the interviewing i did with people who are nice enough to come here today and many ore people i got to know in town -- was that even when you lose a job when thousands of people are losing jobs and neighbors are losing jobs and big obvious employer many town goes away, losing work is personal. it's a hard thing. figure ring the what to do was a hard thing and you wonder so good enough i wouldn't have lost my job and good enough, i have a good job again coach people from the outside can say -- this was a bad economic time it was a corporate decision. losing work is really a personal thing. so i thought i was going to end by just reading you a little bit more of that okay, and this is a chapter towards end of the story that is called night drive. and it's about matt willpat who
is as i said still commuting to fort wayne, indiana. and it's about his ride home. come on get the hell out of here a guy shouts as he burst out the door and speed walks across the tile lobby. barely slowing to slide his id card through the punch clock. friday night, the forth wayne assembly plant the the end of the workweek, the end of second shift and nine hour shift today with a luckingy hours overtime so 11:45 p.m. as guy is shouting one guy among 1100 jammers pouring off factory or flue to start the weekend. amid this horde matt reaches a lobby at 11:47 p.m. wearing nit cap, backpack over one shoulder he's not run aring but he too is walking very, very fast. friday night rit are chul and reaches chilly night air and
coworkers wishes hail safe drive tonight. he stops for an instant 97th saturn he parks in the vast lot every friday in middle row under street lamp so he won't have to think about where he left his car when he returns on monday. he pulls his duffel from the trunk and county helicopters walking with very, very fast over to a nearby 2003, pontiac grand prix already idolling in the the driver's license is chris alldredge and backseat his coach scrunched up between him and door is paul sheraton both gypsies both. chris pops trunk to toss duffel inside and slam trunk shut before he get in on the passenger's side. matt's door is barely closed when he guns engine and or ruers off. 280 whiles to go. four hours and 35 minutes speed just a little where they're sure is they will not get caught. matt pulls out his phone and
calls darcy say he's leaving as he does eve week. when chris guns engine it is in fort wayne except that math is not only within who stays on janesville time so dashboard clock on grand prix says 10:54 he started walking in 20097 months before matt. chris will never forget that day his wife and kids along to help him move but doesn't like to say he's moved so he said that he stays in fort wayne. anyhow his family left on monday morning during first shift for orientation back in the new apartment by 3:30 this afternoon. and he sat on a chair from a cheap dinette set that he had just gotten staring at a wall alone -- his wife and kids already back in janesville. one of the worst feelings of his life. that was three and a half years ago. the grand prix had 47,000 mile
now 100,000. on this night they're not just ten minutes from the plant about to turn on to route 14 where matt says in a quiet way this is my three-year anniversary. chris doesn't miss a beat. we aren't going to celebrate that he shoots back. [laughter] that already texted darcy before going to work happy anniversary to me three years and reply came back has it been three years? seemed a lot longer. darcy added sad face, should i keep going a little bit more? >> yeah. three years even with gm on vacation is a lot of fridays through the night late to get home. this week ten inches in forty wayne but thawed and today was sunny. tonight it is clear so stars are bright on the drive through the indiana farmland so much flatter than wisconsins. think we'll get lucky and get a
double raccoon tonight chris asks? last summer on the stretch of 114, was a timing one raccoon ran into the road from the left another from the right. and the grangd free struck them both one with the front and one with the rear tire. you don't get that every week. [laughter] but they do get the the house along side the road whose occupant of are flare for decorating tonight is lit up like christmas with shamrocks for st. patricks day and now bend north for miles and west on to u.s. 30 four lanes divided which chris and paul and matt agree is better to go than the indiana toll road. further north that some of the other janesville gypsies take on friday night. u.s. 30 gives them a chance in the summer to guess what's playing at the drive-in movie theater down the road not chris will earn drive but prmingseses cleaning next to get a quick peek at the screen of an angle and one time they drove through
a giant thunderstorm with lightning along the flat land of views and see shooting straight down into the field. they're at the seas and always church with weird larger than life david and goliath you can see as you drive by. matt's phone rings it is buret why you knowest calling past their bedtime in indiana he say about three hours probably -- okay sweety i'll let you go. e i love you too. now they're where they shop as always at the truck stop called the pilot travel center some of the gypsies wait until next food stop to last one before the illinois line. but chris and paul and this one for good snack and multiple bathrooms, they're back in car n with their snack and jerky for paul and smart popcorn for matt along with sour patch kids he's saving for buret why and brock
and north on highway 49 and west on to toll road. you're going under the speed limit says paul who mostly been sleeping curled up against his coat. you want the tire to wobble off. you know how to change a tire paul say. matt jumps in. you're doing a good job, chris. thanks chris says you're very supportive. [laughter] and now they're wizzing past gary with what remains of steel mill on the right. lights sparkling, gray smoke plumes delaware dissolving into the sky. flicker of flames and known as magic city when it arrived in 1906 to build mills on lake ganged southern shore now population of 78 thousands less of the hay day in 19 60 one fourth less than even in 2000. more than half living in poverty and gary is perfect specimen of what the rust belt looks like and striving not to become. chris drive ares on.
almost 1:30 janesville tile when grand free enters illinois the skyway and then diane ryan expressway that gets clogged with 14 lanes. the dan ryan is easy to cruise along tonight because with the extra hour at the plant, the overtime they're later than usual and most of the city big shoulders is chris for the piling jobs on job is asleep. but downtown skyline comes into view. just north of chicago a red car passes with four guys this side. tom is driving chris notes almost looks like a leer rei back. more janesville gypsies. matt does this all for a few minutes joining paul in slumber chris doesn't like the silence. you're supposed to be doing color commentary good thing he's awake after 2 a.m. a text arrive on his phone. it is from yet another car filled with gypsies up ahead had.
mile mark hadder 28 in the median chris slows. nine minutes later, matt fought the cop. no tickets he says can't afford to. the the one time matt got pulled over summer l before last, he told the officer the truth. that he works in fort wayne during it the week and was driving home and he guessed it was a little bit excited to get there and see his family. the cop said he could understand and let matt off. they pass the chrysler plant the within that wasn't hiring when assembly plant shutdown. when they get to rock ford chris says home stretch, we'll have paul in his driveway in 20 minutes holeily shit we're nearly home and at this hour 2:41 chris gets philosophical about about spending workweeks in fort wayne. funny how we count tile he says. i count how many christmases i have to spend there. three more christmases.
he's coming up on 27 years since he became a gmer in 1986 part of a big hiring wave that came right after janesville survived one of its near death experiences. when the last day really came december 23rd, 2008, chris are was down at plant shooting video with a digital camera. his anniversary date means that chris is three year and seven months until he can retire. has 12 years an seven months. when i retire chris says i don't it leave you buys there. i want everyone home. maybe that will be my business after i retire. i'll be a shuttle guy and i'll bring you home. paul weaks up as grand prix culls up and i'll have you home in a heart beat is just after 3 a.m. janesville time because this is janesville when chris pulled into chris's driveway after dropping him off chris drive up center avenue, crossing
rock river near where with assembly plant stands vacant, and then up milton avenue to matt's nice home on north edge of town, that he and darcy managed to keep because he's a gypsy and goes through the town dchts ways because it is nice to be home nice to see janesville streets. at 3:20 a.m. chris pulls into the driveway of the beige house with a dark red are front door. darcy hangt remembered to turn on outside light but left the light on in the laundry room just inside the garage door, we're seeing girls once cried is matt leaving for fort wayne for the first time. matt hands chris a $20 bill gas and oil changes when the grand prix needs him. what time are you going to be here monday morning he asked before pulling duffel out of the trunk. probably 8:10, 8:15 the usual. thank you very much.
[applause] >> thank you amy that was wonderful. and thank all of you again for being here. we are going to do q and a now, again, she is not a politician. >> thank you for saying that. >> had not a forum for opinion but questions and answers. and the question should be relevant to amy's book. because she can't answer other questions. what i will have you do is i will have you raise your hand if you have a question. i will bring are the microphone to you, and again, let's be nice. [applause] hey. thank you jackie.
>> i'd be fascinated to know how you found the people coming here not knowing anyone. i know how you find sam he's pretty visible but how do you find families to interview? >> so people introduced me to people. so on this first trip to town, that i was talking about in 2011 -- in addition to stan i met with boarman, i met with devon and mike mark running in retire returning uiw local at time and said who else should i get to know? so i met a few for more people and few more people so it went like that and i didn't ask the most personal question when is i first met them. i waited until they knew me before i started with that. [laughter] >> interim of timeline when did you finish research and writing
of your book? >> so i worked on -- i was slow to start writing. i did research for about three years before i got a book contract. and° that time, i was doing writing because i had to put together a book proposal and i had to by then know at least who many of the main people in the book were going to be because i had to sketch out how the book was going to be organized. once i got a book contract which was -- a big deal because i was kind of flying without a net for a really long timing on this. i then -- was really fortunate that "the washington post" gave me another book. when i told you that i kind of did this thing i've never done before and kept my job away for a two-yearbook leave when i started working on it full-time for two years. ° some of that tile was actually based in mads son. i had a nice appointment at the university.
so for several months i was right here near so spending a lot of time in town that was 2012. so i was here for -- 2012 and election and once i finally had a book contract. the post my great gratitude let me take more time on and writing a first draft and what took e me about nine, ten months and then i spent a lot of team revising. [inaudible conversations] >> when did you finish? >> no if you think about the last writing i wrote the epilogue in december. [laughter] >> if you don't think that the education going back to school helped, what does? >> that's the question isn't it.
that is the question. i don't think that i'm going to slightly dodge that question because i don't fully have an answer for you. but it it is the question. i don't think retraining necessarily a bad idea. i just think that it is hard to do that in a place where there still aren't a lot of jobs. >> have you ever interviewed anyone in detroit to find out whether or not to have any idea empathy or sympathy for what they create when they close a plant? >> yeah, that's a good question. so i'm going to tell you the truth which is i tried very hard to interview rick wagner who had been the head of general motors who fell out of work. you know, within a matter of months after the assembly plant
closed, i never did reach him. aye tacked to some people in general motors i've talked for instance a little more locally. but the gentleman who for a long time was personnel director inside the assembly plant working in madison for a while and i had long conversations with him about what happened and why, and so i did talk to some people and in general motors i spoke to -- people who were at the fort wayne assembly plant management about what it was like to have all of these people coming from different plants to try to create a work force. we've got gyp is sis from all over the place. but i didn't have as much access as i wanted to with the leadership of general motors. >> would you --
>> i don't know if you are aware, but it seems to me the person on your cover is this person right here. >> yes, we've never met, but nice to meet you. >> i just want to say it's billy bob grahn. red roadhouse, a recovery-- >> i know. very good to meet you in person. i listed all the different versions of the images of you holding up flag on december 23, and i looked up who you were because i wanted to know who would be on the cover of the
book, so very glad to meet you with. >> what do you think your readers can learn from reading the book about janesville, about themselves, with the bigger picture you see? >> yes, good to see you. i was not trying to write a political book fair college try to help people understand what it feels like to have worked go way and to try to maybe stoke empathy for that. people can make their own decisions about what policies are correct, what is best for communities to do. i just thought there was so much talk about unemployment and not much about the experience of losing work and i wanted to try as best i could to help people who might be reading the story i have written understand what it does when work goes away.
>> did you interview the other people in the town that weren't autoworkers and their attitude towards autoworkers? >> i very much did because i know that there are long-standing views about gm people and whether they had better salaries, better benefits, so i try to understand some of those feelings and resentment. other people say gm people are okay as well, but also pretty soft like, so a lot of people see those questions different ways and i also thought it was important that i get people who had worked there because they are obviously to legacy industries in this community and both went away during the five years of the story i wrote. so, wanted to make sure i wasn't
just focusing on autoworkers. [inaudible] >> what you all heard, in fact a lady said to me, the guys at the plant to make too much money and they are not work-- worth it. that was a common attitude. >> i'm aware of that and people have other views, but that is certainly one viewing town. >> did you do any research into the supply about what happened and why they went down because i worked in one and we had a lot of people that died on the line because of lack of people not knowing what to do that were supposed to be in charge. the union did not know what to do, the company did not know what to do, gm did not know what to do and we had several people crippled for life because of their severance pay lots of us,
me included, are out of thousands of dollars in severance pay we never received. what else we got cracks i could go on and on and on, the whole thing of affordable housing for people-- rent in town is terrible. we have all taken a hit on that. have you done any research, that's a question. >> i thought it was important so it wasn't just general motors that there was a whole cascade of companies that had been in jobs that those countries that had been around because gm had been around so in the assembly plants lost the shift people also lost a shift. it was very specific in writing that you guys were there, 800 or so people that were working with
you and we certainly talk about what being on the assembly line does to your body, so i didn't look specifically at-- i'm sorry i assume-- do you want to identify which when you are out? sure. so, i know that there was a whole lot of other work that also disappeared and to be honest i had not really thought about what happened to claims against-- against these companies when the scum is what i in that something you are saying. doesn't surprise me to hear that in the chapter-- i tell this story chronologically and if you want to read it you'll see there are very short chapters, each one a different portions point of view-- person's point of view.
in one of the chapters is focused on vaughn's blasting clear i talk at all the other suppliers: net at the same time because as i said i thought it was important to make clear it was a whole universe of a work that existed because of the assembly plant, not just general motors work. >> any other questions? >> there's a question up front. >> i'm going to start back here, since i'm already back here. >> thank you, amy. in the audience, how me people worked for the gm plant? could you raise your hands? okay. thank you and the second question, are any tumors available anymore for the plant except never been to the plant. i'm just curious. >> any tumors at the assembly
plant? >> yes. >> someone might know other than i do, as far as i know it's just a closed. exactly, private property. gates are locked. >> thank you. >> there's a question up here. >> if we could kind of drawback in so we could hear the questions, thank you. >> i know there's a plant east of rockford and i'm wondering how rockford might have been affected by this as well because people probably from rockford came up here as well. >> yeah, so rockford has had its own industrial losses and they were earlier than here, so i
didn't look specifically at rockford, but i know this was public employment and it was close to the illinois line so i don't know how many people came up from rockford. doesn't surprise me to hear there were people. this is also a huge job loss to state the obvious at a time when the whole economy was bad, so there were lots of jobs going away. there were other jobs going away in town, small businesses, restaurants that close because there customers did not have the income they needed, so it wasn't just autoworkers. >> one of the things-- i already read the book. >> thank you. >> part that you left out, actually there were two plant
closing. you talked about the suburban leaving, but you don't mention the other-- >> that had been going for several months. >> unique story in itself, but the alert relationship between union and management because that was actually a arrangement with general motors and the people from japan, so it was like two or three months because i was there till the very end. >> april, 2009. >> so there were actually two plant closings. >> i had to think about how to handle that because there was a small contingent of people working on the another contract and i just, i mean, i'm a journalist, not a fiction writer and i tried to make this book as true as i could make it. i'm very honored everyone in the story let me use their names.
some books don't do that. so, there's nothing i have written that i did not report i don't know to be true, but in the case of the second closing which you are correct about, i decided it would be confusing to say there was this remnant of books done those important to a small group of people, but i know that happened. >> hello. i was lucky enough to be a-- the son of w rather than someone in the uaw, but many of my uncles lost their jobs and many made to commit to kansas and texas and my biggest question was were you able to find anything that was going to be done with the plant and how that will hinder our community as development efforts because it's quite a large prime chunk of real estate and over the years i assume pre-ppa there was not much is done in terms of
keeping that soil clean or keeping any of the water clean, so what can be done with that plants because it is in a sense of sort of a blight. >> i'm glad you asked that question and thank you for sharing the experience of your uncles. i know not everyone went as close as fort wayne. in terms of the plant when we say a couple of things. as many of you know when the plant closed it was not for a long time officially closed. it was put on this limbo status called to stand by and for several years it was the only plant within general motors on standby. there had been to and then springhill reopened for while, but this one stayed on standby, so my sense is that there's a real difference of opinion depending on where you were in the community as to whether it
was a good thing or bad thing and that some people who had been at the plant or who were kind of union identified thought if this is on standby in the economy is good enough it means the plant will come back at some of the business leader-- leadership said this is gone, time to move on and as you will see in the story i saw her portray this is a real issue that emerged on people's sense within the community on what the best future should be and the last i knew the city of janesville is negotiating with a couple of companies that aren't themselves interested in using that property, but interested in buying the property, figure out how to clean it up and who else will point to use it, so it's an open question since the last i knew with what will happen to that huge piece of land.
>> other questions? >> did you interview anyone who went to the drug and alcohol abuse plant? >> yeah, so marv who is the father of match will pad is very involved in helping people with addiction, so through him i got to know people who were kind of in that universe and broadly a man i don't mean to be impolite, but broadly one of the things i was interested in was when you lose all this work and people don't have the money they are accustomed to having, what kinds of social problems emerge? so, i talked to people who work with victims of domestic violence. i talked to two the mental health director. i talked to two the county medical examiner because
suicides were going up for a wild, so i really tried to understand, my sense is that pete-- different people react to a personal economic trauma in different ways. different people have different amounts of personal resilience. different people find their way forward in different paces of time, so i really wanted to understand what was happening here to people having a hard time, so yes, i did talk to some of those folks and none are prominent in the story, but when i say i talked to many more people in town that are part of the story, some of the people you were thinking about were some of the people i got to know >> i will talk as i think, so bear with me.
your story has great significance to this community and i'm really pleased to hear you put so much thought and research in the work you do and that your employer, "washington post" was so supportive of your efforts. i'm curious as to whether or not as you now go out and sort of tell our story in the broader world and in the us, do people here it? is easy when you live on the east coast or west coast or far reaches and you don't see what happens in the midwest, do they hear it and do they hear more of it than what we get on 32nd blips on television or in a two column inch and a national news paper that's buried on page 10? >> i love that question because it goes to i spent some years of my work life writing the story because i wanted people to hear. i hoped people would hear. this is a brand-new thing.
and still at the point where i love holding this book. for some years it was a thing in my head and my computer, so this book came out a week ago tuesday, so it's brand-new and i have been doing a lot of radio interviews and i was on a show called indivisible, which was about america and the first hundred days of the trump administration ended this was an hour-long call-in show and i was blown away because during it coming the host to a stripper, i thought, kept saying to people calling with your experiences. what happens in your community when work is away, when natural resources goes away, what's your experience and a gentleman called in from florida talking about how his town had lost an industry and he was worried it was becoming a tourism place based on the industry that used
to be there and was not there anymore and someone called in from maine talking about how an industry had gone away along with a writer talking about: country. someone called talking about steel and it felt like this radio ballet of people talking about different parts of the country that had been through parallel experiences and that's when i want people to think about, and the subtitle of this book is that it's an american story because i view janesville as a metaphor for what's happening in lots of places and i thought if i could tell the story through the generosity of people in one community that were willing to help me understand it that maybe i could help people understand what was going on around them. >> anyone else? am going to have you pass it down.
>> i was going to ask about the dissolution of marriage is because of the plant closing and because of the gypsies, people developing another life when they moved to and didn't come home. we knew several people that lost their marriages to that, but this last question, i'm also glad you showed people where janesville wisconsin is because i used to travel a lot and i would say wisconsin and they would know where that was and when they finally figured that out they would say how close is your nearest neighbor. [laughter] when i would say well, north of chicago then they would say oh, al capone. [laughter] >> or, the walkie, laverne and shirley, so you put us on the map. thank you. >> i think maybe janesville was
on the map before i came along. >> anyone else? >> i think there is one question appear. >> as i'm walking appear i want to personally say thank you to all of the people who are in amy's book who are were here. some have left. thank you for coming and doing the interviews with because it was because of them that you are able to write the story. >> absolutely. >> credit question? >> with the person about getting out into the public about amy's book, yes, people are reading. my daughter is one of the twins and people are writing on her page, so it's getting out there and they are very open about it.
>> are you planning a sequel? [laughter] >> now i don't have to ask that question. that was going to be my question >> i think the answer is that time will tell and i'm very happy to have a first book out. [applause]. >> thank you all so much. >> thank you again, amy. in was a pleasure having you here. before everyone starts scattering, there is a method when you go out there if you are needing to buy a book, make sure you have your yellow number and if you already have a book, but you in me to autograph it there