DETROIT — With General Motors filing for bankruptcy and announcing it will close 14 plants, throwing thousands of workers on the scrap heap, what is the way forward for autoworkers and their communities? A few quick thoughts.

The closing plants should be placed on stand-by status with the workers receiving full pay while being trained now to build fast trains, solar cells or wind turbines.

If there are no American-based companies ready to convert the plants to the new production, Canadian companies like Bombardier and European companies like Gamesa should be invited to bid to take the plants over and build the high-speed trains and wind turbines they have been producing for years.

Same goes with solar cell (Electronic Conversion Devices in Troy, Mich.) and plug-in hybrid battery (Sanyo from Japan) production, if U.S. companies are not ready to move in immediately.

I also understand that hybrid buses are mostly made outside of the U.S., as well. In any case, cities like Detroit will need tax credits to buy them no matter where they are made.

Tax credits will also be needed to motivate buyers to trade in their gas-guzzlers for plug-in hybrids (the Chevy Volt is going for $40,000).

Stimulus money needs to go into constructing fast-train tracks and not just into road construction.

The biggest causes for the current crisis, of course, are the state of the economy and the credit crisis. Both of these need to be fixed or nobody will be buying any cars, foreign or domestic.

I was struck by how easy it was to get the Detroit Three to accept the higher federal fuel-efficiency standards after attacking them for 20 years. It makes me wonder what would have happened if the United Auto Workers had bargained for a concession from GM and Chrysler — namely their endorsement of a public health care plan and using executive bonuses to pay UAW members’ way to march in D.C. and lobby for it.

My main reaction, though, comes from seeing the contrast in how the worldwide crisis in auto was treated in different countries. When France and Germany gave public money to their domestic manufacturers, it was with the understanding that no jobs would be lost or plants closed.

It’s looking like GM and Chrysler are using bankruptcy to wage the biggest union-busting campaign ever.

I also don’t believe GM will ultimately be smaller worldwide. They will merely supplement their reduced U.S. production with even more imports from low-wage countries, particularly China.

Finally, the Detroit Big Three need to be held to the same standard Toyota has set for itself. Jim Press, its former VP, once said that whatever Toyota sells here, it intends to build here.

Sam Stark is a UAW retiree.

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