By Sean Barron
When the General Motors Lordstown Complex hired Tommy Wolikow in July 2008, he assumed he would enjoy uninterrupted long-term financial stability, afford a comfortable home and retire as his father had after having worked there 42 years.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘I’m set,’” the Lordstown man recalled. “I bought my home with a sense of security, and I felt real comfortable in my situation.”
Things changed dramatically for Wolikow, however, when the 53-year-old assembly plant lost its third shift of about 1,500 workers in January 2017, largely because of a decline in sales of the Chevrolet Cruze, which is built there. Despite the bad news, Wolikow held out hope he would be recalled.
That has not panned out, though, and because his unemployment compensation has been exhausted, Wolikow has no source of income to help support his three daughters age 10, 6 and 8 months, he explained. As a result, Wolikow went back to school and earned degrees to be a truck driver and a diesel technician, a situation he said “forced my Plan B to become my Plan A.”
The laid-off autoworker shared his story during a “Promises Broken” Midwest Pickup Truck Tour rally Saturday morning at the United Auto Workers Local 1112 hall, 11471 Reuther Drive. Good Jobs Nation, a grass-roots organization, hosted the gathering, which also was live-streamed.
GJN seeks to hold all politicians accountable to American workers, in part by ensuring that taxpayer dollars are invested in corporations that create good-paying union jobs and not in those that outsource jobs, its mission statement says.
Since 2013, the organization has won executive orders to raise workers’ wages, clamp down on labor-law abuses and extend paid leave at businesses that receive federal funds, according to GJN’s website.
Wolikow also was among more than 100 people – many of whom voted for President Donald Trump – who have been or fear they will be laid off from GM as well as AT&T call centers in the Mahoning Valley who demanded that the president sign an executive order to stop GM and other corporations that receive lucrative federal contracts from shipping jobs overseas. Also, several elected officials spoke at the one-hour rally.
Acting as moderator was Local 1112 President Dave Green, who said he wrote a letter to Trump this summer seeking his help to save the GM Lordstown plant, but he has received no reply.
Attendees lambasted Trump for promoting his recent campaign slogan, “Promises Made, Promises Kept,” by contending that contrary to his promise to punish companies that outsource jobs, he has awarded nearly $52 billion in federal contracts to corporations that have off-shored more than 13,000 jobs since he took office.
GM and AT&T have received a total of about $1.47 billion in contracts, according to a Good Jobs Nation report.
GJN’s appearance in Lords- town came shortly after a stop in Evansville, Ind., where Trump claimed that “jobs are pouring back” into the country, yet reality suggests the opposite, contended Joseph Geevarghese, GJN’s executive director.
Those who attended Saturday’s rally “are here to set the record straight,” he said.
Among those was Brandon Kirnec, an AT&T call-center worker and member of Communications Workers of America, which represents the employees.
“It’s frustrating to know that our taxpayer dollars are funding companies like AT&T that continue to offshore good union jobs,” Kirnec said, adding that the giant telecommunications company has eliminated about 12,000 call-center positions since 2011. “We need [Trump] to follow through on his promises and stand up for workers like he said he would.”
State Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, told the audience he has been traveling throughout Ohio, urging people to seek specific details from their elected representatives regarding how they intend to fulfill promises they make. He also called for greater corporate accountability.
“This doesn’t just hit us in the pocketbook; it hits us in the soul,” said state Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th. “I call on all corporations to act patriotic and stand by their workers.”
“It’s time that we elect politicians who will make it their job to fight for your jobs,” said state Rep. John Boccieri of Poland, D-59th, and a military pilot, who also called the outsourcing of jobs “a national security issue.”
Repeating the “Promises Made, Promises Broken” rallying cry, Geevarghese urged attendees to remain proactive in the fight to keep jobs in the U.S.
“Without jobs, there is no future; without jobs, there is no American dream. Mr. Trump, we demand you pick up a pen and offshore no more!” he said to applause.
Good Jobs Nation’s next stop will take place in the Columbus suburb of Hilliard on Saturday, when Verizon workers are expected to protest the closure of a call center in that city.
FEDERAL CONTRACTS AND OUTSOURCING
(Company, size of fed. contracts, jobs outsourced)
Boeing, $29 billion, 2,681
Honeywell, $3.38 billion, 545
General Electric, $2.61 billion, 1,251
United Technologies, $2.58 billion, 1,645
Merck, $2.28 billion, 290
Hewlett Packard, $2.21 billion, 210
IBM, $2.06 billion, 536
Pfizer, $1.71 billion, 1,200
AT&T, $912 million, 270
General Motors, $558 million, 2,818
Siemens, $549 million, 1,432
Philips, $280 million, 242
Source: Good Jobs Nation