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Freightliner workers get glimmer of hope; some callbacks begin

In January, Freightliner laid off more than 2,100 workers at its plants in Gaston and Rowan Counties. Now, a few dozen of those workers are returning to their old jobs. A union representative at the Gastonia Freightliner plant says 41 workers have returned to work since last week. Jeff Cogdell with the United Auto Worker local 5286 says more are expected to return next week. The average salary of Freightliner workers is in the low $40s, plus benefits. Freightliner makes big rigs and other industrial trucks. Cogdell also says Freightliner recalled workers temporarily at its truck part plant in Mount Holly. The Gaston County Economic Development Commission office expects the combined recalls to total around 100. Gaston EDC Director Donny Hicks says the impact of the layoffs has been far-reaching. He says, "I think we're excited about any recall today because the plant is critically important not only to our county but to the region. They're a major employer. They have a lot of suppliers in the region. So when they're not making trucks there are a lot of suppliers that are affected by that." Hicks says one Freightliner job supports three or four other jobs in the region. He says the two plants in Gastonia are in the process of combining into one large facility and this will not affect employment there. Cogdell, the union rep, says the plant in Mount Holly builds about six or seven trucks a day. Meanwhile, he says, a plant in Mexico that does the same thing, produces about 90 a day. Cogdell points out in an ironic twist, the recalled workers at the Gastonia plant are helping to make supplies for the Mexico plant. Several calls to Freightliner's parent company, Daimler Trucks North America, were not returned.