Auto workers, union members, community organizations and activists in Warren, Ohio are coming together to try to pursuade General Motors to keep the factory open after last Monday’s announcement the company would “unallocate” the fifty-year-old facility in 2019.
“General Motors will accelerate its transformation for the future, building on the comprehensive strategy it laid out in 2015 to strengthen its core business, capitalize on the future of personal mobility and drive significant cost efficiencies,” the company said in a jargon-dense press release November 26.
The statement explained, “Contributing to the cash savings of approximately $6 billion are cost reductions of $4.5 billion and a lower capital expenditure annual run rate of almost $1.5 billion.”
The “cost reductions” listed included the closure of several facilities:
- Assembly plants that will be unallocated in 2019 include:
- Oshawa Assembly in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.
- Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly in Detroit.
- Lordstown Assembly in Warren, Ohio.
- Propulsion plants that will be unallocated in 2019 include:
- Baltimore Operations in White Marsh, Maryland.
- Warren Transmission Operations in Warren, Michigan.
But this is not the first time the people of Warren have faced the closure of a major employer in town. Jim Graham – who was first hired in 1968 to when the plant was just two years old – fought and won to keep the plant running when GM announced it would close the plant back in 1998.
A veteran auto worker and then-president of the United Auto Workers Local 1112, Graham came together with GM management – sworn enemies at the time – to present a proposal that included deep consessions by the Union to keep their jobs in place.
“I knew if we were not only going to stop the closure but also save the community, it was time to work together,” Graham told the New York Post.
He continued, “We got the Chamber of Commerce on board, and we came up with this simple idea that engaged the entire community. It was called ‘Bring It Home.’ We had signs in every business, home, church. People wore blue ribbons. The workers knew the entire [Mahoning] valley had their back.”
The Lordstown assemby plant currently employs 1600 people inside a 6.2 million square foot facility. GM recently invested millions upgrading the factory in 2014 for the production of the Cruze compact diesel. But by 2017, NYPost writer Salena Zito notes, it was clear the popularity of the car was fleeting as gas prices fell and with it, consumers’ penchant for larger SUVs and crossovers returned.
Nontheless, Graham and his friends and union allies have launched a new effort they call “Drive it Home” to change General Motors’ minds once again, and keep the plant open.
“‘Drive it Home’ is a collaborate [sic] effort to preserve one of the world’s largest vehicle production facilities, GM’s Lordstown,” the website’s Ecomonics page says, adding:
The plant started building cars in 1966 and currently builds one of GM’s best selling cars, the Chevy Cruze. The Union and its members have been working hard to create a positive environment and build good relations with local management. The fact that 35% of Cruze parts come from Ohio parts plants, makes GM Lordstown an economic booster for the entire State of Ohio. We want to “Drive it Home Ohio” by working with and supporting all of the workers and their communities that help build this excellent product. Help us get the word out that General Motors needs to support the hard-working people in Ohio that have been helping them for over half a century. Corporations need to look at investment in terms of people and community, not just dollars.
Reacting to the news, Democrat Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH-13) lashed out against President Trump in a statement last Monday, when the GM announcement was made.
“This president did not lift one finger,” Ryan said in a video interview with TheHill.com. “He’s got executive time all day, he spends time on Twitter, he does nothing but try to divide the country and start culture wars, and behind the scenes the American worker’s getting screwed by a company who received his huge tax cuts.”
Rep. Tim Ryan on GM closings: "This president did not lift 1 finger. He's got executive time all day, he spends time on Twitter, he does nothing but try to divide the country & start culture wars, & behind the scenes the American worker's getting screwed." https://t.co/AEnNFZUvMt pic.twitter.com/WefFf3qZUX
— The Hill (@thehill) November 27, 2018
In a separate statement released by the congressman’s office, he said:
Today our generation is facing a new Black Monday in the Mahoning Valley. GM’s announcement is devastating for the men and women working at Lordstown and everyone here in the Mahoning Valley. For decades, workers have devoted their lives, working day and night, to produce some of the finest cars in the country for General Motors. We fought together to keep GM afloat and the American taxpayers bailed them out when they were on the verge of bankruptcy. Thousands of families have sacrificed to build GM into what it is today. And in return, GM has turned its back on us when we need them the most.
This is a bad combination of greedy corporations and policy makers with no understanding of economic development. I implore President Trump to keep his word when he came to the Mahoning Valley last year and promised jobs were ‘all coming back. They’re all coming back. Don’t move. Don’t sell your house.’ So far, President Trump has been asleep at the switch and owes this community an explanation. We tried to get his attention on this issue two years ago. He promised us that his massive corporate tax cut would lead to dramatic reinvestments in our communities. That clearly is not happening. The Valley has been yearning for the Trump Administration to come here, roll up their sleeves and help us fight for this recovery. What we’ve gotten instead are broken promises and petty tweets. Corporations like General Motors and the President himself are the only ones benefiting from this economy—an economy rigged against workers who are playing by the rules but still not getting ahead.
My office is standing by to assist all those who are impacted by this closure. Our community has always banded together in difficult times, and this will be no different,” said Congressman Ryan.
For his part, Graham told the NYPost, “Now is not the time to panic. … Just do your job, do it right, do it well like we’ve been doing since 1966, and good things happen. I have all the confidence in the world that General Motors is not gonna let that plant just blow in the wind. I have a gut feeling, just like I did 20 years ago.”
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Photo “Auto Workers” by Drive It Home Ohio.