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What Will Happen To Workers In Chrysler Bankruptcy?

Fears that a Chrysler bankruptcy could devastate southeast Michigan and harm Chrysler workers and retirees were abating somewhat as details of the deal were released.

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Fears that a Chrysler LLC bankruptcy could devastate southeast Michigan and harm Chrysler workers and retirees nationwide were abating somewhat as details of the deal were released Thursday.

"It's the best deal we can come up with," said Mark Conner, who works on the production line that makes Jeep Wranglers at Chrysler's plant in Toledo, Ohio. "Anything else that could have happened would be worse."

President Barack Obama announced Thursday that Chrysler would head into bankruptcy with the aid of up to another $8 billion in taxpayer money, a last-resort attempt to quickly restructure the struggling giant. He blasted hedge-fund creditors whom he said held out for a richer deal.

Those holdouts also drew anger from workers, who agreed to more concessions to try to save the automaker.

"Everybody expects the autoworker to take a pay cut," said Conner, 51, who watched Obama's noon announcement at a bar near the Toledo assembly plant. "Nobody else wants to take a pay cut."

But he and other autoworkers were glad to hear the deal will keep workers' pensions and health care benefits secure.

"What we have is an opportunity for Chrysler to remain in Michigan and in America and to come out of bankruptcy viable for the future," Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow said Thursday in a conference call with reporters. "The elements are in place within a very difficult situation for us to move forward in a way that will keep as many jobs as possible in Michigan."

Stabenow, too, blasted the holdout group of creditors. She said they hoped to rely on a taxpayer-funded bailout or their credit default swaps to potentially benefit from a Chrysler bankruptcy, "rather than focusing on what was best for tens of thousands of Americans, and what was best for the American economy."

"We've heard from people involved in the hedge funds ... that they may in fact be suing and challenging and causing problems for Chrysler in bankruptcy," she added. "So I think the onus is on those who have stood in the way."

Architect Dinesh Narasimaiah has been a contract worker for Chrysler Financial the past seven years. On Thursday, he stood outside Chrysler's headquarters and said he thinks he'll still be able to keep his job.

"In the broader picture, it's probably better for Michigan and the whole country," he said of the bankruptcy.

Following Obama's announcement, Chrysler said it will temporarily idle manufacturing starting Monday as part of the restructuring, which includes signing a partnership with the Italian company Fiat.

That left many communities and companies reliant on Chrysler plants still nervous that tax revenues will continue to shrink. Michigan already has the nation's highest unemployment rate, 12.6 percent, and state economists are estimating current budget could face a $1.3 billion deficit -- before the Chrysler bankruptcy is factored in.

"It's not just workers," said Karen Boroff, dean of the Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. "There are dealerships, there are towns where these dealerships are in. ... There are school districts. There are going to be many people who are going to suffer here."

Chrysler is looking to substantially reduce its 3,200 auto dealerships, something it should be able to do through bankruptcy.

Lori Galant works across the street from Chrysler's Auburn Hills headquarters. She has a lot of friends who work at the automaker and a husband who's a researcher for General Motors Corp., the other domestic car company surviving on government loans. GM faces a possible bankruptcy when a federal government deadline for restructuring arrives June 30.

"It's just a waiting game," said Galant, office manager for the Institute for Athletic Medicine.

Kathy Barks Hoffman reported from Lansing, Mich.; Associated Press Writer John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio, contributed to this report.

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