June 22 was not a bright summer day for many area workers. It was the final day of second shift for the General Motors Lordstown Complex, Magna Seating, Jamestown Industries, Leadec Industrial Services and other suppliers associated with the complex. Through no fault of their own, about 1,500 UAW Local 1112 members hit the street on an indefinite layoff. If it hasn’t yet, the trickle down effect will soon hit many more workers in other supplier plants, retail stores, real estate, restaurants, etc., because for every worker at GM, there are up to seven other workers in our area who depend on GM Lordstown for their own livlihoods.
The last time we were in this situation was during the dark days of the GM bankruptcy in 2009 but over the last nine years, GM has made a tremendous recovery, making more profit than ever. In 2010, the first D1 model of the Chevy Cruze was launched and GM officials and auto analysts have credited the Lordstown, union-built Cruze with greatly helping to restore GM to profitability and assuring the car buying public that GM was back and assembling a high quality small car.
Over the last several months, many editorials and columns in The Vindicator have been written concerning the future of the GM Lordstown Complex and the apparent lack of a commitment from GM in Detroit to promise the complex will remain a major part of the Valley’s manufacturing base. The sales trend towards pickups and SUVs has hit the Cruze like a ton of bricks, despite the fact that the recent J.D. Power report gave the Chevy Cruze high marks, rating it the 2nd best car in its segment. The GM Lordstown Complex as a whole was rated by J.D. Power as GM’s best plant in the United States, Canada and Mexico and 6th overall out of all vehicle manufacturers both foreign and domestic. This is a great testament to our workforce who have worked hard over the last 52 years building millions of vehicles and making billions of dollars for GM while paying tens of millions in taxes to our economy and contributing so much to local charities that Local 1112 members are the difference whether they have a successful campaign or not
About a year from now, national contract talks will begin in Detroit between the UAW and GM. Whatever plans the corporation has for GM Lordstown will likely be a major part of those negotiations. My experience as a GM worker for many years, leads me to believe it’s highly unlikely that GM will publicly commit to anything concerning the future in Lordstown until those negotiations are concluded. In the meantime, we greatly appreciate the Mahoning Valley’s support and the continuous need to highlight the importance of GM Lordstown to not only the economic well being of our area but the entire state of Ohio. There are also thousands of jobs outside of the Valley that are connected to the complex.
Over the last five decades we have survived many hard times. The labor-management wars of the late ’60’s and early ’70’s, the recession years of the early ’80’s, the closing of the van plant in the early ’90’s and, of course, the GM bankruptcy and economic collapse in late 2008.
Local 1112 members are ready and willing to do their jobs and want GM Lordstown to prosper for many more years. All we want is the chance.
Tim O’Hara is vice president of UAW Local 1112 at General Motors Lordstown assembly complex.