Sen. Brown Wants ‘Detailed Plan’ from Lordstown Motors Leadership

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — In a letter written to Angela Strand, the newly appointed executive chairwoman of Lordstown Motors Corp., U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is asking for a detailed plan for the company’s reform.

In addition to developing and sharing that plan, Brown is asking Lordstown Motors to work with area members of the United Autoworkers, according to a press release.

Amid recent investigations by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Department of Justice, which Brown wrote “concern me,” the senator said he wants to see the company succeed “and to become a good employer and contributor to this community.” As such, he asked Lordstown Motors to do more to prove it will deliver on promises of job creation and manufacturing innovation, according to the release.

“Your company arrived in the Mahoning Valley with the stated desire to turn this area into ‘Voltage Valley.’ Lordstown Motors owes the Valley the next-generation electric future it was promised,” Brown said in the letter, which can be found in full here. “To that end, I ask that you develop, and share with me, a detailed plan on how you intend to reform your corporate practices to provide greater transparency for workers, investors and the community by the end of the month.”

Below is the full text of the letter:

Dear Chairwoman Strand –

I write to welcome you to the Mahoning Valley. As you know, the manufacturing tradition has deep roots in the Valley. It is home to one of the most skilled and historic manufacturing workforces in the industrial heartland, and has played an integral role in the growth of the automotive industry. The American auto industry has seen a dramatic recovery in recent years, and Great Lakes states such as Ohio have been largely responsible.

I want Lordstown Motors to succeed and to become a good employer and contributor to this community. Your company arrived in the Mahoning Valley with the stated desire to turn this area into “Voltage Valley.” If you succeed, Northeast Ohio could become a global leader in electric vehicle technology. This is a vision we can all get behind.

But, I also need to make sure that workers who commit to your company are joining an enterprise that plans to deliver on its promises to the community. The recent news of investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as the Department of Justice, into your corporate disclosures concern me. The Valley has seen too many companies make big promises and never follow through. Your board and your predecessor, Steve Burns, made those promises, and now the company needs to fulfill that vision of job creation and manufacturing innovation – Lordstown Motors owes the Valley the next-generation electric future it was promised.

To that end, I ask that you develop, and share with me, a detailed plan on how you intend to reform your corporate practices to provide greater transparency for workers, investors, and the community by the end of the month.

I hope part of that reform would include taking a different approach to organized labor than in recent months. Specifically, I am concerned by reports that you have not responded to a request to set up a meeting with the United Auto Workers (UAW). UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, wrote to you on June 15 about organizing a meeting and, to my knowledge, you have yet to answer.

Failing to engage with a labor union with historic expertise in automotive manufacturing is a missed opportunity. UAW workers have so much to offer Lordstown Motors, particularly given your expressed desire to market your electric vehicles to American workers. UAW workers know Lordstown – they helped the plant achieve General Motors’ highest quality metric. They bring the wealth of knowledge and experience of nearly a century of direct relationships with employers in American automotive manufacturing. UAW workers share your desire to see companies in the American automotive industry – companies like yours that commit to creating American jobs – succeed. A relationship with UAW will allow you to gain the immediate trust of the community, lead to less employee turnover, and generate higher rates of productivity.

To help your company achieve the next-generation electric future it is hoping to deliver, I urge you to try a different approach than your competitors: encourage and embrace a cooperative relationship with UAW right from the start. The 20th century history of industrial relations between employers and organized labor in the United States was at many points contentious. In the 21st century, I urge you to form a collaborative partnership with organized labor to produce the green innovations in zero emission vehicles we all want to see while investing in your greatest asset: Ohio workers.

I cannot speak for Lordstown Motors’ future workers, only your workers can do that. They will have to choose their union representation. But, I hope you will choose to work collaboratively with UAW or, at the very least, commit to remaining neutral in any union drive that workers may pursue. Along with your plans for corporate reform, please advise me of your company’s position on majority sign-up neutrality by the end of the month.

We all want to see this venture succeed. I look forward to hearing from you regarding this matter
and stand by ready to assist in any way possible.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.