Elected Officials, Union Members Condemn Trump’s Goodyear Boycott Tweet

AKRON, Ohio – U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan evoked what he described as President Trump’s “sin of omission” in his handling of General Motors Corp.’s Lordstown plant at an event responding to the president’s call for a boycott of Goodyear tires. 

Ryan, D-13 Ohio, joined workers and local leaders Thursday during a live streamed event in front of the United Steelworkers Local 2 hall to support Akron-headquartered Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. and criticize Trump’s call to boycott its products. 

The president’s boycott tweet was triggered by a slide, reportedly from a Goodyear diversity training session, which classified “MAGA attire” as unacceptable. MAGA is the acronym for Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” which is featured on hats and other merchandise.   

The company responded with a statement that the image wasn’t created or distributed by Goodyear corporate nor was it part of a diversity training class. In addition, the company said it asks employees “not to engage in political campaigning of any kind in the workplace. 

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan joins elected officials and union members at the rally in Akron

“Even in a world where it seems like we can’t be shocked anymore by what the president says or does, this was shocking,” Ryan said in a phone interview following the event. “To turn the power of the presidential bully pulpit against an American company and American workers is just absolutely appalling.” 

At the Akron event, Ryan recalled Trump’s failure to intervene when GM announced that it would discontinue production at its Lordstown plant in 2019. 

“We tried to get the president’s attention. He wouldn’t even talk to us,” he said. “When the last job left the factory, he blamed the head of the union.” 

Trump’s lack of action on GM Lordstown was “an act of omission,” he said. “This is a sin of commission,” he added. 

Bill Connor, United Steelworkers District 1 subdistrict director, said the union reached out to the White House as Goodyear was closing its plant in Alabama, which happened as imported tires from around the world flooded the market. 

“It would have been nice if the president would have paid as much attention to the loss of American jobs as he does his MAGA hats,” he remarked.

When the American president called for a national boycott on an American company, based on information he didn’t check – a sad day in American history, Connor said.  

Trump’s statement Wednesday “got me right to my core,” state Rep. Tavia Galonski, D-35 Akron, said. Goodyear has more than 60,000 workers around the world, including more than 3,000 in northeastern Ohio, she said. 

“Goodyear has been maintaining good jobs for workers over 122 years and it’s not going to end because Donald Trump decided to come for us. It’s not going to happen on my watch,” she said.  

Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, D-34 Akron, criticized Trump for trying to take money out of people’s pockets because he had a “temper tantrum.” That won’t happen, she vowed. 

“We stand up for our people. We speak out for our people,” she said.  

“I can guarantee you every one of us up here is trying to protect American jobs,” Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said. 

Bob Baer of Stow shows his support of Goodyear during a United Steelworkers Local 2 rally for good jobs in response to President Donald Trump’s call to boycott Goodyear, a major Akron-based employer, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, in Akron, Ohio. (Karen Schiely/Akron Beacon Journal via AP)

Goodyear brings hundreds of millions of dollars to Akron, Summit County and the state of Ohio and their purchases from downstream suppliers and small businesses keeps them going, Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro said. “So when he challenges Goodyear, he challenges the other businesses that are downstream here,” she said.  

When Trump attacks Goodyear, he’s attacking the legacy of working men and women in the community, said state Sen. Vernon Sykes, R-28 Akron. 

“He’s supposed to be a cheerleader advocating for economic development and jobs,” he added. 

Horrigan, who referenced perhaps the image most associated with the tire manufacturer, its fleet of blimps, called Trump’s suggested boycott “reprehensible” and said he wouldn’t take Trump’s attack on the company. 

Ryan took advantage of Horrigan’s reference to the blimp. “The only thing in America with more hot air in it is Donald Trump,” he remarked. 

In addition to criticizing the substance of Trump’s tweet, the congressman also questioned the political strategy behind it, particularly as polling has shown Ohio becoming more competitive for the presidential campaign. He called the tweet “the clearest message possible for the American people.” In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and the worst recession since the Great Depression, the president directs his power against an American company. 

“It’s just so obviously illustrative of who he is,” he said. He also noted that a Columbus television station came to cover the Akron event, which “speaks to its impact across the state of Ohio.”  

Democrats in Ohio and nationwide, including Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, pounced on the tweet.

“To President Trump, those workers and their jobs aren’t a source of pride, just collateral damage in yet another of his political attacks,” Biden said in a statement Wednesday. Even after 170,000 deaths because of his “mishandled response” to the pandemic, Trump “still keeps taking his eye off the ball, getting distracted by petty political grievances instead of doing his job.” 

In response, Chris Walker, Trump Victory regional communications director, “This is just another example of one set of rules for Democrats and one for Republicans, and President Trump is right to call out the hypocrisy when he sees it.”

Rather than threatening Trump’s chances of winning Ohio this year, the only thing the controversy “puts in play” is Goodyear discovering that “going woke is a good way to go broke,” he continued.

Gov. Mike DeWine addressed the controversy during his Thursday afternoon coronavirus briefing. 

“No. No. No, no. Absolutely not,” DeWine said, shaking his head, as he responded to a question about Trump’s suggested boycott. 

“We should not boycott this good company with good Ohio workers who are doing a good job making a good product. We shouldn’t have any kind of boycott. We have a couple good tire companies in Ohio and we should patronize them,” he said.

The governor acknowledged that people might not have all the facts in the case, but he affirmed his support for the First Amendment. 

“While any company has a right to run its business the way it wants to run it, I think it’s always better if people have the ability to express themselves as long as it does not get in the way of the work or the mission of the organization,” he said. “I know there are limits and that legally a company can control what goes on in their workplace. I think companies should be as open to First Amendment things as they can. That’s the kind of country this is.” 

Pictured at top: Goodyear supporters gather at a United Steelworkers Local 2 rally for good jobs in response to President Trump’s call to boycott Goodyear, a major Akron-based employer, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, in Akron, Ohio. (Karen Schiely/Akron Beacon Journal via AP)

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.