Teachers, Autoworkers United to ‘Drive It Home’
LORDSTOWN, Ohio – More than 100 autoworkers, teachers, retirees and supporters of General Motors Co.’s Lordstown plant gathered on a bitterly cold and bittersweet afternoon Tuesday to show solidarity and hope for the future, as the plant prepares to send its last vehicle down the assembly line today.
“This week it’s about taking care of the workers and their families and the folks who are impacted by this shutdown,” said James Dignan, president and CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber and spokesperson for the Drive It Home campaign. “We want to make sure that those who are making the hard decisions to move and take assignments elsewhere that they have what they need – the families get what they need here.”
About 130 supporters showed up in blue shirts Tuesday and drove their GM vehicles into the parking lot of Lordstown Village Schools for a photo opportunity to demonstrate a sense of spirit on behalf of the more than 1,400 employees that stand to lose their job once the plant closes after the shift ends this afternoon.
“It’s been a tough week, it’s very emotional for our members, and we’re just trying to rally and keep doing what we’re doing,” said Dave Green, president of United Autoworkers 1112, which represents workers at the plant. He said the future of the plant remains uncertain as long as it is on “unallocated” status, and that the final word about the fate of Lordstown probably won’t be known until collective bargaining is finished and a new international contract between the company and union is signed. “I don’t think we’ll hear anything until our contract comes out,” he said. Negotiations on the new agreement begin this summer, he added.
GM announced in November that it would end production of the Chevrolet Cruze, the small car produced at the plant, this month. The final vehicle is set to roll off the assembly line today after producing GM vehicles for more than 50 years.
Green told those in attendance at the rally that “we’re not going to give up hope. General Motors is going to put a product in that plant.”
Those who work at the plant say that today is going to be difficult to process.
“It’s hard,” said one autoworker with 20 years at the plant that would only give her name as Elizabeth. “Right now, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I have a daughter who is a junior in high school in Austintown and I don’t want to move her out,” she said. “I’m going to go on unemployment and wait it out and see what happens here.”
Jackie Sturm started work at the plant 23 years ago, when the Lordstown facility was building the Chevrolet Cavalier, and agreed that today will be a very emotional day.
“It’s a sad day, we’re not sure what’s going to happen,” she said.
“It’s going to be tough on everybody,” said Norman Perry, who has worked at the plant for 24 years. “I saw some tears Tuesday when I walked in,” he said. “A girl started crying and I tapped her on the shoulder and told her it was going to be OK. We’re going to keep our heads up, keep our spirits up, and we’ll get through this.”
The chamber’s Dignan said the campaign would continue after the last car rolls out of the plant, but the primary focus this week is those employees affected by the shutdown, making them aware of any re-training programs that might be available to place them in another position in the Mahoning Valley.
“It’s still the grassroots level of getting out and taking care of folks out in the community, and making sure GM and others are aware,” Dignan said.
Over the next several months, both the company and union will focus on hammering out a new agreement, which should provide more answers about the fate of the GM plant, Dignan added. “The UAW’s got a lot of hard work ahead of them, working with GM to determine what they’re going to do nationally and the Lordstown plans will figure prominently in that.”
Comprehensive coverage from The Business Journal:
Last Shift Arrives at GM Lordstown (Video)
As GM Ends Production, Region Prepares for Future
Last Day Dawns at General Motors Lordstown
Flashback: GM Lordstown Celebrated 50 Years 2 Years Ago (Video)
UAW, Valley Message to GM: We’re ‘True Blue’ Loyal
Production Ends at GM Lordstown Wednesday
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