Politics

Update: Drive It Home Campaign Responds to Trump’s Tweets

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Following a series of tweets by President Donald Trump over the past two days, the Drive It Home campaign remains optimistic about the future of the General Motors Lordstown Complex.

Drive It Home Ohio, the support campaign launched last year by UAW Local 1112 and the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, this morning issued a news release with statements responding to the president’s latest tweets.  

“The Drive It Home Ohio campaign remains a positive and optimistic grassroots effort,” said James Dignan, Drive It Home Ohio campaign co-chairman and the Regional Chamber’s president and CEO. “We agree with President Trump’s comments. GM should bring another product back here so we can deliver a quality vehicle for them once again with three full shifts here at their Lordstown facility.”

“We want GM CEO Mary Barra to reinvest in GM Lordstown and grow jobs in the Mahoning Valley, protect manufacturing in Ohio and make sure American cars and trucks are Made In America,” said Local 1112 President Dave Green, Drive It Home’s other Ohio co-chairman. “Our folks are hard working, dedicated, dependable and loyal and we’re ready to go back to work with General Motors to make the cars and trucks for the future. As far as talks go, that is up to our International UAW and General Motors. We want to work. We are ready to build a new product.”

President Donald Trump tweeted  this morning about the shutdown of the General Motors Lordstown Complex, urging the United Auto Workers International and GM to come to the bargaining table now rather than wait until September to negotiate a new agreement.

The latest tweet followed a pair Trump issued over the weekend targeting GM and Green, who represents workers at the Trumbull County plant idled nearly two weeks ago.

“General Motors and the UAW are going to start ‘talks’ in September/October. Why wait, start them now! I want jobs to stay in the U.S.A. and want Lordstown (Ohio), in one of the best economies in our history, opened or sold to a company who will open it up fast!” Trump said Monday morning.

“Car companies are all coming back to the U.S. So is everyone else. We now have the best Economy in the World, the envy of all,” he continued. “Get that big, beautiful plant in Ohio open now. Close a plant in China or Mexico, where you invested so heavily pre-Trump, but not in the U.S.A. Bring jobs home!”

Trump’s Sunday tweet – his second of the weekend about the plant’s future, in which he specifically called out Green – drew sharp rebukes from Democrats. It came as part if a weekend tweet storm during which the president blasted out more than 50 messages.

“Democrat UAW Local 1112 President David Green ought to get his act together and produce,” the president tweeted. “G.M. let our Country down, but other much better car companies are coming into the U.S. in droves. I want action on Lordstown fast. Stop complaining and get the job done! 3.8% Unemployment!” 

A story posted today in the Washington Post drew a connection between Trump’s tweet targeting Green and a discussion on Fox News about the political implications of the plant shutdown.

“The tweet came minutes after a segment on Fox News Channel suggested that Trump might have trouble with his reelection campaign in the Rust Belt. Fox News played clips from a Trump rally in Youngstown, Ohio — very close to Lordstown — where the president told the crowd in July 2017, ‘don’t sell your house’ because the jobs are “all coming back,’ ” The Post reported.

Drive It Home Ohio also responded Sunday to Trump’s tweets.  

We’re doing everything we can with the Drive It Home Ohio campaign to convince General Motors CEO Mary Barra to reinvest in GM Lordstown,” Green said in the campaign statement. “As Mary Barra has said, GM plans to discuss our fate with the UAW in the fall and we are focused on getting a new product in Lordstown.”

A few hours later, Trump tweeted that he had spoken to Barra:

“Just spoke to Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors about the Lordstown Ohio plant. I am not happy that it is closed when everything else in our Country is BOOMING. I asked her to sell it or do something quickly. She blamed the UAW Union — I don’t care, I just want it open!”

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, who Green accompanied as his guest at Trump’s State of the Union address in February, characterized the president’s tweet as “counterproductive and insulting” in a statement issued Sunday afternoon. Green and the Lordstown plant workers “deserve better,” he added.

“They’ve worked tirelessly to build award-winning cars and have dedicated their lives to GM. They are second to none. Since it was announced that GM would close Lordstown, Dave has been working around the clock to help save these jobs, families and community,” said Ryan, D-13 Ohio.

The congressman also referenced a pair of letters Green sent to Trump on July 6 and Feb. 1 requesting help but receiving “no response” from the president.

“The president’s tweet today is offensive and does nothing to help bring back the manufacturing jobs he promised to my district,” Ryan said. “We all deserve better.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6 Ohio, said Trump “is passionate about putting the people at Lordstown back to work” and added that Green is “working hard at his end” as well.

 “The bottom line is, everyone in the Mahoning Valley is doing what they can to ensure the best possible outcome for all the hard-working Ohioans affected,” Johnson said. 

General Motors reiterated in a statement released Sunday evening that the plant’s future will be determined during negotiations this summer with the UAW.

“We remain open to talking with all the affected stakeholders, but our main focus remains on our employees and offering them jobs in our plants where we have growth opportunities,” the company said.

Responding to the president’s tweets U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, stated that Local 1112 members “have shown grit and determination in the face of adversity, fighting for Lordstown from day one. Instead of attacking workers, it’s past time you stood up to GM and joined the fight.”

 U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who along with Brown and Ryan met with Barra last year to discuss the Lordstown plant, said through a spokeswoman that he would “continue to press GM to bring new production to the plant.”

Sunday’s tweets followed a message on the GM Lordstown Complex the day before:

Because the economy is so good, General Motors must get their Lordstown, Ohio, plant open, maybe in a different form or with a new owner, FAST! Toyota is investing 13.5$ billion [sic] in U.S., others likewise. G.M. MUST ACT QUICKLY. Time is of the essence!”

Johnson tweeted he agreed with the president following the Saturday night statement.  

“I hope GM rethinks their plan for the Lordstown plant quickly. Else, they will make a big mistake letting that highly skilled auto-making workforce get away,” he said. “Other auto manufacturers should consider moving in if GM doesn’t act.”

David Pepper, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, issued a statement Saturday night that the last Cruze had rolled off the line nearly two weeks earlier “and only today did Donald Trump realize what had happened.”

 During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump “made promises to the workers of the Mahoning Valley,” Pepper said, but the day he was inaugurated, GM ended its third shift at the Lordstown plant. During a 2017 rally in Youngstown, Trump told people not to sell their houses because jobs that had left Ohio would be coming back.  

“After GM announced they were planning to close the Lordstown plant, Trump showed no sympathy for the plight of these workers,” he continued. “He said, ‘It doesn’t really matter’ and promised these jobs would be replaced ‘in like two minutes.’ Workers from Lordstown wrote to the president, but they never received a response. GM workers attended the president’s State of the Union address but Trump didn’t say one word to reassure them.”

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.