GM CEO Barra speaks – kind of

It’s the one and only time General Motors CEO Mary Barra communicated directly with the people of the Mahoning Valley about next month’s idling of the Lordstown plant – and she did it in a letter to the area’s children.

Indeed, Barra’s message to the kids can be summed up in the words of a song they would find catchy: “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey-ey, goodbye.”

Too cynical? Not if you consider the CEO’s response to the more than 5,000 youngsters who sent letters or drawings urging Barra not to close the 52-year-old Lordstown assembly complex.

“Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your pictures with me,” GM’s top dog wrote. “I see how much you care about your family, friends and community, and I understand why you are sad and worried. I want you to know I care about them, and about you.

“Like you I am proud of them and grateful for the years they’ve been part of our GM family. We’re working hard to continue finding ways to support them and your community.

“We’re starting by offering jobs at other GM plants for many of the Lordstown workers. We’re also partnering with United Way in your neighborhoods to help families who decide not to relocate to another GM plant.”

If you still think that the “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey-ey, goodbye” interpretation of Barra’s letter is too cynical, compare its tone to that of the letters sent over the Christmas holiday by the children of the Mahoning Valley.

Here’s a sampling:

This holiday season my wish is that the GM Plant stays open in Lordstown because

  1. So people don’t lose their jobs.

  2. People can have cars made in America.

  3. People don’t lose their home.

  4. People don’t lose their family and friends.

  5. People will not be able to pay their bills.

  6. People don’t lose money.

  7. People need to buy Christmas gifts.

  8. So people don’t have to go back to college – which costs.

  9. Supports our community.

  10. So people won’t be sad.

Happy New Year! Merry Christmas! And Plz don’t take GM away!!!

It was signed by Micah.

Here’s another letter sent to Barra:

My name is Sophia and I am a 3rd grader at C.H. Campbell Elementary School. My Teacher just told me that the GM Lordstown plant is closing and it makes me feel sad because so many nice people have lost their jobs. The people that worked there are probably having a rough time. Maybe you should create a new car like a SUV since those are what people buy now. This Holiday season, my wish is for the GM Lordstown plant to stay open.

Eric D. wrote:

I am a student at Seaborn Elementary. I hope you reconsider closing the GM business in Lordstown because many people in the community will lose their jobs.

Finally, there was one that was unsigned but had the artist’s interpretation of reindeers pulling a sleigh with a blond Santa Claus in it and a Merry Christmas wish:

  1. So people don’t lose their jobs.

  2. People don’t lose money.

  3. People need to buy Christmas.

4.Supports our community.

There also was a Christmas tree next to a house.

Out of the mouths of thousands of the Valley’s babes came the appeals to GM CEO Barra not to abandon the Lordstown assembly plant.

But with the announced idling of the complex when production of the once very popular Chevrolet Cruze ends, there are legitimate concerns about the future.

The loss of 4,000 good paying union jobs will certainly rattle the region’s economy, but the impact on people’s lives will be even more devastating.

That’s why Barra’s failure to come to the Valley and meet with the people whose well-being will be affected by the closing of the plant is so disconcerting.

The Mahoning Valley has first-hand experience with the pain and suffering that come when corporations pull up stakes. The end of major steel production decades ago not only resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs, but the dislocation of families. The effects are still being felt with the exodus of young people and the resulting brain drain.

The GM Lordstown plant has been a major pillar of the region’s economy, which is why the next several weeks will require a concerted effort by all the stakeholders to persuade Barra to re-evaluate the decision.

The “Drive It Home” campaign launched by UAW Local 1112 and the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber needs you.

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