Laid-off UAW members were in the studio audience of ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on May 15 as guests of rap star Eminem, who wanted to highlight the difficulties they face in the current economic crisis. ABC Photo/Michael Desmond.
For Rosalie Griffin, 66, it was the chance of a lifetime.
“I would have never been able to make a trip like this with what little money we have coming in right now,” said Griffin. “I think it was just a fabulous opportunity. I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Griffin, along with 150 other UAW members who are laid off from their jobs at auto parts suppliers, boarded a plane to Los Angeles in the early morning Friday, May 15, to attend the taping of the "Jimmy Kimmel Live" show and a mini-concert by rap star Eminem.
A Michigan native, Eminem approached Kimmel about bringing laid-off auto workers from his home state out to join him during his appearance on the late-night show. Eminem wanted to show the rest of America some faces of the economic crisis.
Kimmel, who had visited Detroit when the city hosted the Super Bowl last year, quickly agreed. ABC and Kimmel’s sponsors paid all the expenses for the UAW members’ trip to Los Angeles.
Local 9699 member Griffin was laid off from International Automotive Components in Port Huron, Mich., at the end of 2007. She’s getting by on Social Security and a minimum wage job at a local store. Her husband, a self-employed carpenter, is also out of work.
“I’m barely making ends meet,” she said.
Griffin, like all those who participated, was deeply appreciative for the opportunity and gave a brief thank-you speech on behalf of all of the members to Eminem and Kimmel after the show.
“I think it was great of them to do this,” she said. “They let everybody out there know that we’re hurting.”
William Verdier of Local 155 is laid off from U.S. Manufacturing in Warren, Mich. With five kids under the age of 17 at home, it’s been really tough. He gets $387 a week in unemployment insurance -- not enough to cover expenses.
“It’s real tight,” he said. “I’m behind on my mortgage right now. I had to go into my 401(k) plan to supplement my income.”
He was grateful for the opportunity to take a break from his daily worries, even for a few days.
“It was nice that they flew us out here and they showed us a lot of love here.”
Verdier also thought the show served as a reality check for people who hear about the auto crisis but don’t see the hardship it’s causing to people like him.
“It put a human face to the whole thing,” he said. “A lot of people read about the struggles that we’re dealing with. You know, we’re living it.”