Two weeks ago, the recession arrived at the General Motors' Delco Moraine division here.
More than half of the plant's 134 employes were laid off indefinitely. The division manufactures torque converter clutches for GM cars. The severe drop in automobile production coupled with a large inventory of clutches forced Delco Moraine to lay off an entire shift.
Because of construction that is goingon in the plant during the day, the remaining 54 employes now work from 3:30 p.m. to midnight. When the company went into production a year and a half ago there were three shifts for a time.
The workers, who receive 5 percent of their base hourly rate as a premium for working nights, are mostly involved in the assembly of the torque converter clutches with some handling press and heat treatment operations. The company has one security guard who works from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. ROANOKE:
"This old night life ain't no good life, but it's my life," the song goes. There are a lot of nocturnal workers who can relate to that refrain.
On any given night, while the rest of us sleep, there are thousands who are out making a living. One of the largest nighttime work forces in this region is here at the headquarters of Norfolk & Western Railway.
About one-quarter of the company's 4,000 employes in Roanoke are involved in some form of night work. Among them are engineers and brakemen.
The roanoke facility serves N&W's 14-state rail system. In addition to the administrative offices, there is a freight yard, repair yards for locomotives and freight cars and a facility to build the cars.
In the systems operations center, a large situation board shows the location of every one of N&W's 1,300 locomotives. The workers who run the center around the clock control the distribution of trains for 100 miles in several directions.
Out in the yard, trains pull in all night long. Each car has to be classified as to its destination and switched to the proper track. Carloads of grain or lumber are delivered to local feed or lumber mills and the empties are picked up and returned to the yard. Meanwhile, locomotives are serviced and repaired throughtout the night, as railroad police patrol the two-mile-long freight yard.
Other night staff include janitorial workers in the general offices. None of the night workers receives a pay differential, a company spokesman said. FREDERICK:
"Night work is hard, some like it and some don't," says a spokesman for the Eastalco Aluminum Co.
The plant, just south of Frederick, turns 176,000 tons of ore alumina into aluminum each year. It operates 24 hours a day. About two-thirds of the plant's 980 employes work the night shift. They average about 42 1/2 hours a week and some make as much as $25,000 a year. It's hard, hot work.
Reducing alumina to aluminum is an eight-step process. It begins with the mixing of bauxite and caustic soda and ends with the casting of the molten (1300 degrees Farenheit) aluminum. The reduction process involves the removal of aluminum from alumina through electrolysis.
"It runs at the same level all the time," the spokesman said. "Just like milking cows."
The facility also employes night workers including truck drivers, security personnel and material handlers.