ANDERSON, Ind. (PAI) — In the 1970s, UAW Local 662, including workers at the Delphi Auto Parts plant in Anderson, Ind., had 17,000 members. In the early ’90s, less than half that remained. Now only 722 are left, and that number is dropping fast.

Delphi is going to close the doors on its High Energy Ignition Plant in Anderson by early 2008. It is one of 20 Delphi plants scheduled for extinction.

The drastic cuts are part of Delphi’s plan, presented to a bankruptcy court in New York City on March 31. It calls for firing three-fourths of the firm’s 34,000 U.S. workers and huge wage cuts — from an average of $27 an hour to an average of $16 an hour, within a year’s time — for the rest.

The broad impact of Delphi’s closing on the town of Anderson is obvious. As the company pulls all the good jobs out of the town, property prices are plummeting. A $200,000 home built three years ago might fetch $150,000 now. Most of the higher-seniority people will be gone in the next few months as they “flow back,” or move to other General Motors locations where they have transfer rights. The population of Anderson is already down almost 20,000 people in the past 10 years.

But beyond the big numbers are the little numbers that mean even more. Local 662 was a good neighbor. Every summer it sponsored basketball camps at the college, free to the kids. Workers at UAW Local 662 contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the United Way of Madison County. They held fish fries to raise money to buy food baskets for the poor at Christmas. They held food drives to support the food banks and supported the Salvation Army.

One worker, who is being forced to retire, told me of an old guy that came to look forward to the box of food that the union used to give him at Christmas. When he heard about what’s happening, the old man said, “I guess I’m not going to get that anymore.” The Delphi worker replied: “No, I’ll take care of it myself if I have to.”

—Indiana Labor News