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Jackpot Winners Won't Quit Working For Chrysler

Fri, 07/02/2010 - 4:27am
John Seewer, Associated Press Writer

CURTICE, Ohio (AP) — A year ago, William Shanteau and his 13 co-workers at a Detroit auto plant were worried their jobs could be gone at any moment.

Now they're all millionaires after winning a share of last week's $96.9 million Powerball drawing.

Most of the group from the paint shop at a Chrysler plant that makes Jeep Grand Cherokees still plan to keep working, Shanteau said Thursday after working a 12-hour shift.

"It's like family," he said, adding that at least two of the jackpot winners plan to retire, and he wouldn't mind leaving early down the road.

The last few years have been full of uncertainty.

Chrysler filed for bankruptcy protection in April 2009 and struggled through a painful restructuring, closing several plants and losing thousands of workers to buyouts and early retirements.

The company earlier had been in danger of being sold off in pieces if the U.S. government had not stepped in with billions in aid.

"We didn't know if we were going to come in and the gates were going to be closed," Shanteau said.

For now, it seems most jobs at the assembly plant are secure — not that it matters much for the lucky 14 — after Chrysler announced in May it would add about 1,100 jobs to build the new Grand Cherokee.

Shanteau, 46, showed up two hours late for a news conference in his Ohio hometown Thursday because he had to work overtime. He drove up in a new red Corvette and received an oversized check.

He said the group has been pooling its money for lottery tickets for almost two years ago and he joined it about six months ago.

Shanteau bought the lucky ticket, one of two winners. It was only the second time he had purchased the tickets for the group. The other winner was sold in Montana and will be shared by two health care co-workers.

The autoworkers claimed their prize Monday and chose to take a lump-sum cash payment, worth about $25.1 million. After taxes, each autoworker gets $1.2 million.

Shanteau, who's a regular lottery player, won a $100,000 jackpot about six years ago.

The others, who all live Michigan, have stayed out of the spotlight.

Both Ohio and Michigan are among the highest in unemployment and have been hurt more than any others by the slumping auto industry with tens of thousands of jobs last as plants and suppliers have cut production or closed.

Shanteau said he was laid off for about a year in the early 1990s and has been making cars for 27 years.

He now wants to buy his wife a Jeep and pay for new American flags for his hometown, which is just outside Toledo.

"That's it," he said, looking over at his new Corvette. "I've got my dream."

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