5 years since Lordstown complex closure

On March 6, 2019, just over five years ago, my life, along with my family’s, was entirely uprooted when the General Motors plant in Lordstown closed. While living in Youngstown, I worked at the plant for 41 years alongside my wife before I retired in 2018. My wife, on the other hand, still worked at the plant and was years out from retirement, so she — and the rest of us — were forced to pick up and leave to maintain employment and the hope of a secure retirement.

I never wanted to leave Ohio. It is where I grew up, built a family and raised our children. But when the Lordstown GM complex closed, we had no other choice.

I was also vice president of our union at the time and had been a member since I was 18. In 2017, then-President Donald Trump spoke at our struggling GM plant in Lordstown and promised to save it. Many people believed the former president when he promised manufacturing jobs were “all coming back” and there would be no need to move or sell our homes. Sadly, his actions proved he did not have workers’ backs.

The president of our United Auto Workers Local at the time, David Green, reached out to Trump directly, asking him to intervene and persuade GM to reverse its decision. Instead of expressing remorse for our community or even acknowledging our pleas, Trump chose to attack Green. No help came after that. Trump had broken his promise, and the plant closed.

When GM announced the closure of the Lordstown plant, our community was hit hard. An estimated 4,352 workers lost their jobs after the closure.

Many of those workers, like my wife and I, had kids or elderly parents to look after. Countless small businesses in the community ultimately folded. Sensing a political liability following the plant’s closure, Trump brought Lordstown Motors, who had taken over the GM plant, to the White House for a pep rally as a signal of the community’s rebound. But of course, it ultimately came out that, like Trump’s namesake “university,” the company lied to the public, defrauded its investors and eventually filed for bankruptcy.

The shift from the Trump administration to the Biden administration has been like night and day. Both promised to save a struggling auto factory. When Stellantis announced it would close a plant in Belvidere, Illinois, just over a year ago, Joe Biden sprung into action and helped save the plant and the thousands of jobs that would have been lost. He simply followed through.

Biden personally appealed to Stellantis executives to reverse their decision, ordered an economic analysis on the damage that could be done to the community, and he supported UAW workers by joining striking auto workers on the picket line. His choice to stand alongside my fellow UAW members on the picket line was more than symbolic. We’ve never seen a president physically walk on a picket line. In late October, UAW reached a deal with Stellantis and the announcement came that Belvidere would re-open, and that the company would add thousands of new good-paying jobs in the local community.

With Biden in office, American workers have a partner they can count on to have their backs. Since day one in office, Biden has made relationships with unions a key priority.

He took an anti-union Department of Labor from Trump and flipped it while passing economic legislation that prioritized good-paying, union jobs. The CHIPS and Science Act, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act are growing America’s middle class and strengthening American auto manufacturing for decades to come.

While this progress is good for the country as a whole, I cannot underscore enough how personally important it is to me to know that thousands of American families will not experience the personal, financial and social devastation a job loss or relocation can have.

Tim O’Hara is the former president of United Auto Workers Local 1112 based in North Jackson that oversaw the Lordstown Assembly Complex, where Tim worked for 41 years before its closure. O’Hara now lives in Kentucky with his wife, who also worked at the Lordstown complex and continues to work at a GM plant.


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