Workers at LG Chem, a $300 million lithium-ion battery plant heavily funded by taxpayers, tell Target 8 that they have so little work to do that they spend hours playing cards and board games, reading magazines or watching movies. They say it's been going on for months. "There would be up to 40 of us that would just sit in there during the day," said former LG Chem employee Nicole Merryman, who said she quit in May.
That employee says some workers are doing odd jobs around the building, including cleaning and maintenance, while others hang out in the cafeteria playing video games, Texas hold-'em and Monopoly or doing Sudoku or crossword puzzles -- all on company time. The employee said some watch movies. "There's no work, no work at all. Zero work," another current employee said. "It is what it is. What do you do when there's no work?"
Target 8 left a message at the plant's security station and left a message with the company's receptionist. The receptionist would not transfer the call to a company manager.
The Target 8 investigation has led the Washington, D.C.-based Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board -- an oversight agency for the federal stimulus program -- to take action. "We are sending this to the Inspector General, Department of Energy, for his review," said Ed Pound, spokesman for the board. The Inspector General's Office would decide whether to open an investigation. Pound refused further comment.
The plant all started with such great hope, and a presidential groundbreaking in July 2010. "This is a symbol of where Michigan is going, this is a symbol of where Holland is going, and this is a symbol of where America's going," President Barack Obama told a crowd at the groundbreaking.
The company's goal: 300 employees pumping out 15 million battery cells a year. Its biggest customer: The Chevrolet Volt.
The U.S. Department of Energy provided a $151 million grant, part of Obama's Recovery Act. The Korea-based company recently said it has 200 employees, and the company's most recent federal filing shows 100 of them are funded through the Recovery Act grant.
The company has spent $133 million so far, most for construction and equipment, records show. About 40% has gone to foreign companies -- mostly to Korea, a Target 8 analysis shows. The company also spent more than $533,000 of that federal grant for the groundbreaking, records show.