Pick Up Tour rolls into Valley

Staff report


State lawmakers, local union representatives and leaders of national worker-rights movements decried President Donald J. Trump’s record on jobs and assailed corporate off-shoring policies at a Labor Day weekend rally Saturday at an abandoned call center.

The Mahoning Valley was the sixth stop on a national Pick Up Tour that began in Indianapolis on Aug. 21 with a rally led by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. It took place at the site of the former Verizon call center on Boardman-Canfield Road, where 450 people once worked.

“President Trump has been all talk and no action for the working men and women in America,” former state Sen. Nina Turner, surrogate for Sanders and now president of Our Revolution, told the rally attendees. She said the president promised to be “the greatest jobs president” and to work for fair-trade policies, but those promises were not kept once he entered the White House.

“We need Mr. Trump to get in touch with President Trump,” she said.

Joseph Geeverghese, national director of Good Jobs Nation, said the president can help stop the erosion of jobs “right now with the stroke of a pen.” He added that Trump can sign an executive order that would prevent companies from getting lucrative federal contracts if they engage in offshoring – the sending of jobs overseas.

Geeverghese added that 62 mass layoffs have taken place in Ohio in the first seven months of Trump’s presidency.

State Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, addressed the rally, urging labor supporters to lobby on behalf of legislation in the Ohio General Assembly that would require call centers to reimburse the state for any incentives they received if they leave to operate overseas. Schiavoni, a Democratic candidate for governor, also said the bill would require giving workers adequate notice of shutdowns.

State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-58th of Youngstown, also called for support for House Bill 245, which she and state Rep. John Boccieri, D-59th of Poland, introduced in May. She said Ohio has lost 7.5 percent of its 170,000 call center jobs over the past decade.

“These jobs are critical to the economic stability of working families in Northeast Ohio,” she said.

Boccieri told rallygoers that not only are jobs lost in Ohio, workers elsewhere in the world are exploited because of off-shoring.

“The average call center worker in the Philippines makes $5,000 per year,” he said, adding average annual wages for U.S. call center employees is more than $30,000.

Glenn Johnson, president of the United Auto Workers Local 1112 at the General Motors Assembly Complex in Lordstown, targeted unfair labor pacts as another reason for the loss of thousands of auto and other manufacturing jobs, including about 12,000 over the years from the Mahoning Valley Chevrolet plant that manufactures the Cruze.

“NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement] took jobs with a huge sucking sound” to Mexico and elsewhere, he said. He urged everyone to contact the president to work to make NAFTA “fair for all” as negotiations begin on updating the historic trade agreement.

A contingent of call-center workers, many members of the Communications Workers of America union, stood behind speakers at the rally. Some of them spoke of the fear they have of losing their jobs.

About 50 people took part in the rally. An undetermined number of people who planned to attend left the parking lot in front of the former Hobby Lobby store on Boardman-Canfield Road, unaware the event was taking place behind the building.

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