The Associated Press reports that despite the $17.4 billion lifeline given to automakers last week, GM is still laying off 1,080 workers on Tuesday. So far, GM has sent 11,000 American workers to the unemployment line and that’s just in 2008 alone.

For decades automakers such as GM have employed tens of thousands of Americans and helped ordinary workers become homeowners, send their kids to college and provided steady employment even in rough economic times.

But, with automakers facing bankruptcy it seems that steady relationship with the ordinary American worker is coming to an end. Many of those workers have not prepared themselves for what seems to be an inevitable round of massive job losses in the nearly bankrupt auto industry.

Many of these workers are just now (after being laid off) considering updating their skills so that they can find other employment in some of the more stable and even growing sectors such as healthcare; but is it too little too late? How will they pay their mortgages and other debts and avoid bankruptcy while they return to college to earn a 4 year degree?

Many of these workers don’t have that much time, if like most; they have worked for GM or some of the other automakers for 20 years or more. What will happen to the wealth that these workers accumulated as they struggle to find employment in a world where their specialized skills provide little value?

What will happen to the future wealth of these workers that many other businesses depended on? The reality is that some of these workers are the same people who purchased the cars that were made in these factories and bought the homes that fueled the real estate boom.

The government needs to take action to make sure that these workers facing job losses are able to easily preserve their wealth through bankruptcy or other mechanisms while they prepare to reenter a drastically changed economic landscape.