For many Ohio families, the fight to save the Lordstown Assembly Plant is about more than the roughly 1,500 jobs that will be lost; it’s a life-or-death struggle for their community.
Thursday during a speech in Akron, newly-elected governor Mike DeWine announced that he had met with General Motors CEO Mary Barra to tell her “and the other executives at GM that if they will put a new line in Lordstown that we will do everything that we can to support that, help that.”
The plant has been a staple of Lordstown since its opening in 1966. As recently as 2010, it employed as many as 3,500 workers. That number was cut in half in 2012. In April of last year, GM announced that the plant, along with several other US plants, would be shut down. The plant was exclusively making the Chevrolet Cruze and after several years of consistently declining sales, they opted to scale back production. However, while production of the vehicles will cease in the US and Mexico, it will continue in Argentina and China, frustrating many local workers.
Former Governor Kasich made several attempts to save the plant in whatever form he could. Most publicly, he began directly tweeting messages to Tesla founder Elon Musk, asking him to take over production at the plant. Though he replied that he was interested, to date there has been no public update on these talks.
While Governor DeWine spoke with optimism about the possibility of getting a new GM line into the plant, he conceded that Barra, “did not rule that out but there was no indication that this is going to happen.”
I mean I did not get any indication that they would be able to put a new line in. Didn’t say ‘no’ but certainly gave us no indication that was going to happen.”
On January 6th, retired teacher and former Democratic congressional candidate Werner Lange began a one-man vigil outside the plant in the hopes of saving it. His stand is intended last throughout the year, or until GM agrees to reopen the facility. He has received support from other activists and local unions have joined him in support.
When asked why hold this vigil, he replied, “This is not only a life and death struggle for this plant and the future of the workers, but for all communities in this area.”
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Andrew Shirley is a reporter at Battleground State News and The Ohio Star. Send tips to [email protected].